Tech Tidbits: A Season to Remember

Wonder Boys at NCAA Tournament 2024
The Arkansas Tech Wonder Boys huddle up during a timeout at the 2024 NCAA Division II Tournament in Mankato, Minn.

The 101st season of Arkansas Tech University men’s basketball marked a return to prominence for the Wonder Boys.

Arkansas Tech finished with an overall record of 25-7 following a 75-68 loss to nationally second-ranked Minnesota State University in the first round of the 2024 NCAA Division II Tournament on Saturday.

It was the 10th season with 25 or more wins in ATU men’s basketball history and the first such season since 2011-12. The Wonder Boys won their first regular season conference championship since 2013-14 and their first Great American Conference Tournament championship since 2015.

Arkansas Tech made its 21st national tournament appearance in men’s basketball and its first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 2017. The Wonder Boys only trailed by one point at halftime on Saturday evening, but Minnesota State made nine of its first 13 3-point tries to begin the second half. The Mavericks built a 67-53 lead with less than 10 minutes to play.

“Shooting is contagious,” said Mark Downey, ATU head men’s basketball coach, after the game. “If you see one go in in front of 5,000 people and you hear that crowd, it’s contagious through the entire team.”

Despite the barrage of outside shooting by Minnesota State, Arkansas Tech was not finished. The Wonder Boys rattled off nine unanswered points to pull within 67-62 at the 5:37 mark. Minnesota State responded with back-to-back baskets from Justin Eagins and was able to stave off ATU’s comeback bid from there.

“I’m not for saying there’s a positive when you get beat,” said Downey. “I’m going to stew in this for a long time, but we have a group coming back that could be special. They were special this year, and they get to come back and do it again next year. Wouldn’t it be grand if a year from now we were talking at the scorer’s table and we were surrounded by green and gold? That would be fun. It’s possible with the group we have coming back.

“I’m grateful for the support (the community) has shown us this week, the last two weeks and throughout the season,” continued Downey. “The send-off the other day…everything that people are doing for us…it’s humbling, and I’m honored to be the head coach and to represent Arkansas Tech. This was a big year, but there are even bigger things ahead.”

Live coverage of Arkansas Tech baseball and softball will be available on throughout the spring.

Arkansas Tech athletics on KCJC 102.3 FM and the EAB Media Group app will return to the airwaves on Thursday, Sept. 5, when the Wonder Boys begin the 109th season of Arkansas Tech football by hosting Oklahoma Baptist University at Simmons Bank Field at Thone Stadium.

Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. The pre-game show will begin at 6:30 p.m.

Talk to you on the radio.

Tech Tidbits is a column written by Sam Strasner, ATU director of university relations and radio play-by-play voice for ATU football and basketball.