Tech Tidbits: Coaches Pick Right Moments to Fight On

Coach Downey and Coach Wilbers January 2022
File photos of Mark Downey (left), Arkansas Tech University head men's basketball coach, and Dave Wilbers (right), ATU head women's basketball coach, during games earlier this season at Tucker Coliseum.

There’s a time and a place each season when a coach must use emotion to motivate his or her team in a critical moment.

For Arkansas Tech University head basketball coaches Dave Wilbers and Mark Downey, the time was this week and the place was the sideline at Tucker Coliseum.

ATU’s women entered their Monday make-up game against Harding University with a great opportunity before them. The Golden Suns were beginning a four-game homestand that could move them into the upper echelon of the Great American Conference standings if it goes well, or it could bring their postseason hopes into doubt if it does not.

Arkansas Tech led the Lady Bisons 31-22 at halftime, but the first two minutes of the third quarter were a different story. A 7-0 Harding run cut the Golden Suns’ advantage to 31-29.

Wilbers, who generally maintains a calm demeanor on the floor, knew it was time. He called timeout. A chair was relocated. A message was clearly sent. The Golden Suns responded and pulled away for a 70-58 victory to take down the second-place Lady Bisons and end their seven-game winning streak.

“I told this team we have to start fighting a lot more,” said Wilbers on Monday evening. “We fought on today. It’s crunch time in the season and sometimes it’s just a matter of battling.”

A little more than 24 hours later, ATU’s men faced what felt like (even though it’s too early for that) a must-win game against Harding. The Wonder Boys entered play one-and-a-half games outside the cut line to make the GAC Tournament, and the mathematics involved in making up that deficit leave little margin for error…particularly when playing at home against the last-place team in the league standings.

Midway through the second half, the Wonder Boys were trailing the Bisons 49-46. Downey knew it was time.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve tried to get a technical foul,” he said as he put on the headset for the post-game radio interview.

It worked, and in more than one way. He was successful in drawing the technical foul he sought, and it achieved the desired action of galvanizing the Wonder Boys.

Three consecutive layups in the final three minutes — two by Calvin Allen and one by Niko Gosnell — gave Arkansas Tech a 66-63 lead. Cameron Kennedy sealed the victory by blocking a potentially game-tying 3-pointer with 10 seconds left. ATU won 68-63 and moved within one game of eighth place in the GAC standings (the cut line to make the postseason) with eight games remaining in the regular season.

“We showed resiliency and some fight,” said Downey. “We finished. We made plays when we had to make plays. We just kind of found a way, and that’s what this team hasn’t been able to do. We’re going to try to build off of that.”

The Golden Suns (11-8 overall, 8-7 GAC) and the Wonder Boys (8-12, 5-9) will host Oklahoma Baptist University at 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 10. Southern Nazarene University will visit Tucker Coliseum for games at 1 and 3 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 12.

The process of making up games postponed due to COVID-19 will continue Monday, Feb. 14, when the ATU women host the University of Arkansas-Monticello at 5:30 p.m. and the ATU men visit Harding for a 7 p.m. game in Searcy.

I hope to see you at Tucker Coliseum as these teams battle to make the GAC Tournament. It’s fun to be a fan when times are great. It’s important to be a fan, and a community, when the task is more challenging. Ticket information is available at

If you can’t make it, we’ll have coverage on KCJC 102.3 FM and

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.