Tech Tidbits: ATU Bounces Back With Toughness

Maisa Marcal 2-10-2024
Maisa Marcal had 18 points, seven rebounds and six assists in Arkansas Tech's 87-54 win over Oklahoma Baptist on Saturday, Feb. 10.

Arkansas Tech University’s women’s basketball kept calm after its worst shooting performance of the season on Thursday night.

As a result, the Golden Suns had their best shooting performance of the season less than 48 hours later and now they are in position to carry on to the postseason for an 18th consecutive year.

Arkansas Tech (10-10 overall, 7-9 Great American Conference) shot 23 percent from the floor in a 74-38 loss to nationally fifth-ranked Southern Nazarene University on Thursday. It was the Golden Suns’ lowest single-game field goal percentage since March 1, 2014.

“We had a hard, two-hour practice on Friday,” said Dave Wilbers, ATU head women’s basketball coach. “We shot a lot of shots. Everybody came in ready to have a good practice.”

The next day, Arkansas Tech shot a season-best 61 percent from the field and routed Oklahoma Baptist University 87-54.

“It’s pretty typical basketball…when the ball goes in the basket, everything is better,” said Wilbers.

The Golden Suns are tied with Ouachita Baptist University (9-11, 7-9) for sixth place in the GAC women’s basketball standings. Southern Arkansas University (11-11, 6-10) and Oklahoma Baptist (9-13, 6-10) are tied for eighth place. The teams that finish inside the top eight of the final league standings will advance to the GAC Tournament March 7-10 at FireLake Arena in Shawnee, Okla.

Five of Arkansas Tech’s final six regular season games will be played on the road.

“We’re in a battle for Shawnee with a lot of teams because this league is so good,” said Wilbers. “We’ve been pretty good on the road. Every road game we’ve played has been close. We just need to make some plays at the end.”

Mark Downey, ATU head men’s basketball coach, is baking the cake without all the ingredients.

The latest blow to the injury-plagued Wonder Boys came Thursday night when Cassius Brooks, ATU’s second-leading scorer this season at 12.3 points per game, hit his head on the floor at Tucker Coliseum during a 67-52 loss to Southern Nazarene.

Brooks was in street clothes on Saturday when Arkansas Tech (16-6, 12-4) found a way to overcome Oklahoma Baptist 82-78 and remain in sole possession of second place in the GAC men’s basketball standings, one game behind Southeastern Oklahoma State University (17-7, 13-3).

“We played with a lot of grit and Isaac Ragland made a bunch of big shots,” said Downey.

Ragland, who only appeared in three of Arkansas Tech’s first 18 games, scored a career-high 18 points in the win over Oklahoma Baptist. He was 5-of-6 from 3-point range and proved that his heroics one week earlier at East Central University, where he hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:23 remaining, were no fluke.

“Next man up,” said Downey. “That’s what we’ve been talking about. That’s what Isaac did today. Trey (Allen) gave us some good minutes and Braden Tanner got us going. He made a couple of 3s early and it was good to see him get 25 minutes. (Tanner) has a bright, bright future here and I’m glad he’s on our team.”

Taelon Peter scored 28 points and blocked an Oklahoma Baptist 3-point try in the final 20 seconds to preserve Arkansas Tech’s lead in the win on Saturday. The Russellville product has played 35 or more minutes in seven of the Wonder Boys’ last eight games in an effort to help ATU overcome its short bench.

“It’s not a time to be tired,” said Downey. “It’s February. I’m not playing, but I’m exhausted. The guys are tired. We’ve got to keep grinding and get to March. It’s one game at a time, one possession at a time and one play at a time. That’s all we can worry about.”

Arkansas Tech will play GAC doubleheaders this week at Harding University (5:30 and 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 15) and Ouachita Baptist (1 and 3 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 17).

Live coverage will be provided by KCJC 102.3 FM, and the EAB Media Group app.

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.