Despite being separated by a mere 82 miles, Arkansas Tech University and the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith have never played a basketball game against one another.
That will change at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 21, when the Arkansas Tech Golden Suns (1-1) take on the UAFS Lions (2-2) at the Stubblefield Center in Fort Smith. Live coverage will be provided by KCJC 102.3 FM, www.arkansastechsports.com and the EAB Media Group app.
“It’s a big deal,” said Dave Wilbers, ATU head women’s basketball coach. “When our volleyball team went over there, it was a big deal for (UAFS) to play us. It’s important to our basketball team. We’ll be playing against a very good and athletic team.”
The Golden Suns dropped an 88-86 decision to Pittsburg State University (Kan.) at Tucker Coliseum on Thursday. The Gorillas, who are picked to finish in the top three of the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association this season, used a late 12-2 run and the experience provided by three returning All-MIAA players to escape with the win.
“I’m proud of our team and the way we played,” said Wilbers. “I thought we shot the ball well and got a bunch of good shots. We did a good job taking what they gave us. We have to play better defense, plain and simple. We gave up way too many points. This was the first time we’ve been pressed in a close game. It’s a good learning tool for us. I hope we respond better next time.”
The Arkansas Tech Wonder Boys (1-2) earned their first win of the 2023-24 season on Thursday by holding on to defeat Drury University 75-72. The Wonder Boys led by as many as 22 points in the second half, but in the end they needed a pair of Taelon Peter free throws and a defensive stop in the final five seconds to secure the victory.
“In the first half, we were guarding, we were pressuring and we weren’t ball watching,” said Mark Downey, ATU head men’s basketball coach. “We were all over the place. And then, in the second half, all of a sudden we couldn’t stop them because we relaxed. We’re still dealing with young guys who are growing up, and they did grow up some before our eyes (against Drury). We played a really good 20 minutes of basketball and then we found a way at the end.”
The win over Drury marked the season debut for ATU junior guard B.J. Johnson, who sat out during the Wonder Boys’ season-opening trip to Kansas due to injury. ATU went 0-2 without Johnson, who scored nine points in 26 minutes against Drury.
“We really, really, really missed B.J. Johnson,” said Downey. “He doesn’t score a lot of points, but he makes plays and he’s always in the right place. We wanted him to play about 20 minutes max, but you get him out there and he’s so good at what he does that you don’t want to take him off the floor.”
ATU’s men will visit the University of Texas-Tyler Patriots for a 7 p.m. game on Wednesday, Nov. 22. Live coverage will be provided by 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.