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Wonder Boys Visit UAM on Saturday

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Arkansas Tech has won 21 of its last 22 regular season Gulf South Conference men’s basketball games.

On Saturday, the Wonder Boys will return to the site of their only GSC loss since 2009. Nationally 14th-ranked Arkansas Tech (17-3 overall, 8-0 GSC) will visit the Arkansas-Monticello Boll Weevils (12-8, 4-4) for a 4 p.m. contest at Steelman Field House in Monticello. The game will be broadcast in the Arkansas River Valley by radio station KWKK 100.9 FM. The broadcast will be streamed over the Internet at www.athletics.atu.edu. The Wonder Boys were undefeated (25-0) and ranked No. 1 in NCAA Division II when they arrived at Steelman Field House on Feb. 25, 2010. Arkansas-Monticello was fighting for a berth in the 2010 GSC Tournament and celebrating the final home game for its seniors. Fueled by those motivations, the Boll Weevils outscored Arkansas Tech 9-1 over the final 1:56 to post a 58-51 victory and end the second-longest winning streak in Wonder Boys’ history and the best start to a Tech men’s basketball season ever. Arkansas Tech will carry another long winning streak to Monticello this season. The Wonder Boys have won 11 straight games to grab sole possession of first place in the GSC West Division.   The key to Tech’s latest winning streak has been turnover margin. The Wonder Boys have committed fewer turnovers than their opponents in every game during a streak that dates back to Dec. 17. Tech has excelled in turnover margin all season. The Wonder Boys average plus-9.7 turnovers per game, second-best in NCAA Division II. Arkansas Tech has taken its advantage in that category to another level in its last four games. The Wonder Boys have committed just 38 turnovers during that span while forcing opponents into 105 turnovers.

That’s an average of plus-16.75 turnovers per game in wins over Harding, Ouachita Baptist, Henderson State and Southern Arkansas. “Our defense has gotten better at getting in the passing lanes,” said Arkansas Tech head coach Doug Karleskint. “We feel like we can pressure and give our guys the freedom to get in those lanes and make some steals. That’s been helpful, and then when you have a senior point guard like Laithe Massey who is making good decisions and having another all-conference caliber year, it allows us to create those extra possessions.” The first meeting between the Wonder Boys and the Boll Weevils this season went down to the final shot. UAM’s Jerrell Boswell missed a 3-pointer from the right wing at the buzzer to allow Arkansas Tech to hang on for an 85-82 victory in Russellville on Jan. 15. The Boll Weevils’ big four of L.A. Farmer, Sergio Crowe, Ricardo Hall and Boswell combined for 74 of UAM’s 82 points in that game. Much of UA-Monticello’s offense is kick-started by setting ball screens for Farmer.

“Ball screen defense is something we work on every day,” said Karleskint. “L.A. Farmer is as good as it gets in this conference when it comes to point guards, and he uses ball screens so well. That’s one area of concern heading into this game.”

The Wonder Boys are led in scoring by junior guard Johnie Davis. The transfer from Gulf Coast Community College has scored 20 or more points in four of his last five games. Davis ranks fifth in the GSC in scoring (16.1 points per game). After visiting UAM, the Wonder Boys will return home and prepare for a 7:30 p.m. GSC contest against Christian Brothers on Monday.

It will be “Project: Feed Arkansas Night” at Tucker Coliseum. Anyone donating one or more non-perishable food items at the door will receive a discount admission of $5 for adults and $3 for students and senior citizens.

The donated items will be given to the Arkansas Rice Depot to help those in need. There will also be a silent auction to benefit the Arkansas Rice Depot.

Admission will be free with a valid Tech identification card.

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