Mark Downey is known in the Great American Conference (and, I’m sure, all the other places he has coached) for his intensity. He hates losing on an uncommon level.
So, it was a bit of a surprise…and an indication of his evolution…that the Arkansas Tech University head men’s basketball coach sensed his team needed a different approach following a 63-54 loss to Northwestern Oklahoma State University on Thursday.
“I told the team that I didn’t help them very much on Thursday,” said Downey before ATU’s game against Southwestern Oklahoma State University on Saturday. “We were all pressing and we were all tight. When I let that get to me, I don’t help our guys relax. I’m going to relax a little bit and let these guys play. The guys showed me something Thursday night. Four or five of them checked in on me. They were asking how I was. That showed me what they are about and that they care.”
It worked. Less than 48 hours after their worst shooting performance of the season, the Wonder Boys (12-4 overall, 8-2 GAC) shot 57 percent from the field and 52 percent from 3-point range in an 82-74 win over SWOSU.
With the victory, Arkansas Tech maintained sole possession of first place in the GAC men’s basketball standings with 12 games remaining in the regular season.
Junior guard Taelon Peter of Russellville (19.6 points per game) is the Wonder Boys’ leading scorer and a candidate for GAC player of the year. Junior forward Tommy Kamarad of Buford, Ga., has stepped forward with eight double-digit scoring performances in ATU’s last nine games. Kamarad matched his career high with 22 points in the win over SWOSU.
Peter and Kamarad were a combined 17-of-24 from the field on Saturday, while junior guard Kade Shaffer of Russellville had a career-high eight assists.
Junior guard ClaraGrace Prater has stepped forward during the most challenging stretch of the season thus far for the Arkansas Tech Golden Suns (8-6, 5-5).
Prater established a new career high with 14 points in a 71-67 loss against nationally sixth-ranked Southern Nazarene University on Jan. 13. Five days later, she matched that career high and helped the Golden Suns earn their first win over a top-10 opponent in almost eight years with a 64-54 victory over 10th-ranked Northwestern Oklahoma State University.
The Vilonia product took it to another level on Saturday, notching a career-high 17 points in a 55-48 loss to Southwestern Oklahoma State University. The Golden Suns were unable to overcome a season-high 27 turnovers and a 30-10 deficit in points off turnovers.
“(ClaraGrace) has played really well and she is playing hard,” said Dave Wilbers, ATU head women’s basketball coach. “Overall, we have to play better basketball.”
ATU will host Harding University (5:30 and 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 25) and the University of Arkansas-Monticello (1 and 3 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 27) for GAC basketball doubleheaders at Tucker Coliseum this week. When the calendar flips to February, there will only be three home dates remaining on the 2023-24 ATU basketball schedule.
Tickets for ATU home basketball games ($5 adults, $3 children and senior citizens) are available for purchase at www.arkansastechsports.com/tickets.
Live coverage of ATU basketball games is 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.