Tech Tidbits: Long Trip, Important Games for ATU

Kade Shaffer 2-10-2024
The Arkansas Tech Wonder Boys are 3-0 since Kade Shaffer (photographed) and his teammates brought their "big game gold" uniforms out of storage on Feb. 10.

It’s more than the longest road trip of the Great American Conference basketball season.

This week’s journey to the west side of Oklahoma will play a significant role in how the remainder of the season will unfold for the Arkansas Tech Wonder Boys (18-6 overall, 14-4 GAC) and the Arkansas Tech Golden Suns (11-11, 8-10).

Game times are 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 22, at Southwestern Oklahoma State University and 1 and 3 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 24, at Northwestern Oklahoma State University.

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

The Wonder Boys enter the final two weeks of the regular season in sole possession of second place in the GAC men’s basketball standings, one game behind league-leading Southeastern Oklahoma State University (19-7, 15-3). Arkansas Tech is pursuing its 22nd regular season conference title in men’s basketball and its first since 2013-14.

“(SWOSU) played us good at home and it will be a tall order,” said Mark Downey, ATU head men’s basketball coach. “It’s sometimes nice to be on the road where you can focus, come together as a group and become tighter as a team. Every game from now on except for Henderson State is on the road, even the conference tournament, so we have to get used to it.”

After the Wonder Boys face the SWOSU Bulldogs (8-15, 8-10) on Thursday, a revenge opportunity at Northwestern Oklahoma State (14-10, 12-6) will await on Saturday. Only two teams have defeated Arkansas Tech’s men at home this season. The Rangers, who won 63-54 at Tucker Coliseum on Jan. 18, are one of them.

A 2-0 road trip to Oklahoma this week would assure the Wonder Boys of a top-2 seed in the GAC Tournament, which is scheduled for March 7-10 at FireLake Arena in Shawnee, Okla.

ATU’s women are engaged in a battle to make it to Shawnee and earn their 18th consecutive postseason appearance. The Golden Suns’ 66-63 win at Ouachita Baptist University on Saturday was a huge step in that direction.

“The team just stuck it out and won on the road,” said Dave Wilbers, ATU head women’s basketball coach. “We had some girls stick some free throws there late in the game. Everybody had their moments to play really well and we shared the basketball. Our defense was outstanding.”

The Suns are now in sole possession of sixth place in the GAC women’s basketball standings. A win over the SWOSU Lady Bulldogs (12-12, 9-9) on Thursday would allow the Golden Suns to pull into a share of fifth place with three games remaining in the regular season. The top eight teams in the final standings will advance to the GAC Tournament.

It’s fun to have meaningful Arkansas Tech basketball games in the second half of February, even if it means a trip to the far reaches of the Sooner State. Let’s enjoy them together on Thursday night and Saturday afternoon.

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.