Saturday, December 18, 2010

Fifth-Ranked Golden Suns Closes GSC Crossover Play with Hard-Fought Home Win Over North Alabama

RUSSELLVILLE, Arkansas – Arkansas Tech Women’s Basketball concluded its four-game slate of Gulf South Conference Crossover games here Friday evening at Tucker Coliseum by posting a hard-fought 68-61 victory over North Alabama.

Friday’s game was the second in two night for the fifth-ranked Golden Suns as they earned a 99-86 win just 24 hours earlier over Alabama-Huntsville. With Friday’s win, Tech improves to 9-1 on the season and extends its homecourt winning streak to 25 straight games.

“This was a great win for our team and it will really prepare us for our slate of West Division games that begin in a few weeks,” Golden Suns Head Coach Dave Wilbers said. “These last two games are a good indication of what our conference looks like this season.”

In Friday’s game, the two teams battled back-and-forth in the early going, before Tech used a 12-0 capped by two free throws from junior forward Samanta Ludwig (Toledo, Brazil) to turn what was a 13-12 deficit into a 24-13 lead with 7:19 left in the first half. UNA, though, used a 7-1 run to pull within 25-20 following a three-pointer by Lacy Lewis, before the Golden Suns closed the half on 12-4 run to go into the locker room with a 37-24 advantage.

Tech’s closing run was aided by eight points from junior forward Katie Horsman (Fairfield Bay, Ark.). Horsman, who scored a career-high of 22 points in Thursday’s win over UAH, tallied 15 points against the Lady Lions. Over her last three games, Horsman has scored 47 points.

“That run to close the first half was big for us. It gave us some momentum heading into the second period,” the fourth-year Tech coach said.

UNA, who fell to 5-4 with the loss, came out strong in the second half as they opened with a 10-0 run that was sparked by a three-pointer Dana Jackson. The 10-0 run dropped Tech’s lead to 37-34 just a little less than three minutes out of the locker room.

Tech would not score until the 16:29 mark of the half thanks to a lay-up by senior guard Laura Beth Anderson (Springdale, Ark.). UNA would pull to within two points on two occasions, the last coming with 9:11 left in the game following a lay-up by Jackson. That would be as close as the Lady Lions would get the rest of the game.

Even with the lead Tech looked fatigued until freshman forward Casse Vaughn (Little Rock, Ark.) entered the game with 5:54 remaining and made two consecutive lay-ups and then senior All-American guard Jenny Vining (Marshall, Ark.) followed with a three-pointer to push Tech’s lead to 62-54 with 4:17 left in the contest. The three-pointer, which was the only one of the game for Vining, extended her streak to 11 consecutive games of hitting at least one 3-pointer dating to last season’s NCAA D-II South Regional final against Delta State.

“Casse came in tonight and gave us a huge emotional lift when we looked to be struggling from fatigue,” Wilbers added. Vaughn finished the night with four points and three rebounds in seven minutes of action.

UNA was able to come within three on a 3-pointer from Sanqueeta Meardith moving the score to 64-61 with 1:37 left, but senior guard Shaquilah Davis (Colorado Springs, Colo.) hit two free throws to seal the win and improve to 7-0 all-time against the Lady Lions.

In addition to Horsman’s 15 points, sophomore forward Jessica Weatherford (Bonnerdale, Ark.) scored 15 points, added eight rebounds and three blocks in the win. Junior forward Natalia Santos (Sao Paulo, Brazil) ran her double-figure scoring streak to 26 straight games as she tallied 12 points and six boards. Vining, Anderson and Davis each added six points, while Vining had five boards and five assists.
Jackson led the way for UNA with 13 points and nine rebounds, while Niala Harris chipped in with 12 points and six boards.

For the game, Tech shot 50 percent from the field, but was just 3-for-9 (33 percent) from the 3-point line and the Golden Suns shot 65 percent at the free throw line. UNA finished the game shooting 36 percent from the field, 28 percent from long distance and 42 percent (8-for-19) from the foul line.

Tech will now take 12 days off before returning to action on Dec. 29 as they welcome 22nd-ranked West Texas A&M to Tucker Coliseum for a 5:30 p.m. contest. Seven of those 12 days off are mandated by the NCAA as part of its new “Life in the Balance” initiative. The “Life in the Balance” initiative established Dec. 20-26 as a seven-day dead period during which no athletically related activities can be conducted in winter sports.

“It is going to be interesting to see how the girls come back after such a long break, but every Division II team is in the same position as we are in,” the Tech coach said. “West Texas A&M is a great team and I will be watching a lot of tape over the break.”

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