After the Arkansas Tech Wonder Boys received the 2023 Great American Conference Tournament runner-up trophy last March and their 2022-23 season was officially complete, they didn’t immediately return to their locker room.
They remained in the corridor of FireLake Arena in Shawnee, Okla., and watched as Southern Arkansas University was presented with the championship trophy and an automatic bid to the NCAA Division II Tournament.
“I told B.J. (Johnson) and Taelon (Peter) that I wanted them to watch (SAU) celebrate,” said Mark Downey, ATU head men’s basketball coach, in the moments following that 89-69 loss to the Muleriders nine months ago. “I want our guys to see it. I want them to hurt and feel that. I want them to see someone else cut the nets down. I’m going to sit out here and watch them cut these nets down.”
Fast forward to the present, and it’s time for ATU (7-2 overall, 3-0 GAC) and SAU (4-4, 2-1) to meet for the first time since that 2023 GAC Tournament title game. Tip-off is scheduled for 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 17, at Tucker Coliseum in Russellville.
“(SAU) beat us the last game of the year last year in a pretty big game,” said Downey after ATU defeated Arkansas Baptist College 74-46 on Tuesday. “It’ll be a fun game on Sunday. I’m sure we’ll be ready to play, and I know they will be, too. We’re going to keep pushing. We try to serve this community as much as we can. This is a good product to watch. This is a good group of guys and we do things the right way.”
ATU’s men have won seven consecutive games, their longest winning streak in six years. The Wonder Boys are in sole possession of first place in the GAC men’s basketball standings. A win on Sunday would keep that true entering a 17-day holiday break from game action.
Junior guard Taelon Peter (19 points per game) is Arkansas Tech’s leading scorer through nine games. The Wonder Boys rank top three in the GAC in 3-point field goal percentage (.411) and 3-point field goals made (8.4 per game). ATU’s plus-6.1 rebound margin per game is second-best in the conference.
Game one of Sunday’s doubleheader at Tucker Coliseum will pit the Arkansas Tech Golden Suns (4-3, 1-2) against the SAU women (6-2, 1-2). Tip-off is set for 2 p.m.
The Suns have been idle since an 84-80 loss at Henderson State University last Saturday.
“We played better defense in the second half,” said Dave Wilbers, ATU head women’s basketball coach, after the HSU game. “We shared the ball well. There are just some plays in the game that we control that we have to do better. We didn’t quit and we played hard.”
Arkansas Tech has won its last eight women’s basketball meetings with the Muleriders. The Golden Suns defeated SAU 89-87 in Magnolia and 94-87 in Russellville last season.
Tickets for the ATU-SAU doubleheader are available at www.arkansastechsports.com/tickets.
Live coverage will be available over KCJC 102.3 FM, www.arkansastechsports.com 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.