Saturday, December 18, 2010

Wonder Boys Return to Win Column, Post Impressive Home Victory Over North Alabama

RUSSELLVILLE, Arkansas – Arkansas Tech Men’s Basketball returned to the win column here Friday evening as the Wonder Boys conclude Gulf South Conference Crossover action with a 75-57 victory over North Alabama at Tucker Coliseum.

Friday’s game was the second in two nights for the Wonder Boys as they suffered an 83-76 loss just 24 hours earlier to sixth-ranked Alabama-Huntsville. The loss to UAH snapped Tech’s two-game winning streak and also snapped its 22-game regular season homecourt winning streak.

With Friday’s win, Tech improves to 7-3 and heads into its 13-day break with some momentum. UNA falls to 4-7 with the loss.

“This was a must-win game for us as we entered the upcoming extended holiday break,” Wonder Boys first-year Head Coach Doug Karleskint said. “We played a strong all-around game, which allowed us to win against a good UNA team.”

Both teams struggled in the early going as the score was deadlocked at 2 for almost two minutes before senior guard Willie Sanders (Jacksonville, Florida) jumpstarted Tech’s offense with a fast break layup off of his own steal. The team’s continued to exchange baskets as the first half saw six ties and three lead changes.

Senior guard Jeremy Dunbar (Niceville, Fla.) took over in the final two minutes of the first half as he hit two free throws to give Tech a 30-28 lead with 1:42 left and the drilled a three-pointers with four seconds left to send the Wonder Boys into halftime with a 33-30 lead.

Dunbar assisted in Tech’s 14-1 run to open the second half as he knocked down two consecutive 3-pointers and scored eight of his career-high 22 points.

“We have been waiting all season for Jeremy to break out after being injured during preseason and tonight he broke out in a big way,” Karleskint added.

Dunbar entered the game averaging just 9.8 points per game and shooting just 39 percent from the field and 31 percent from the 3-point line. In Friday’s game, he finished 7-for-12 from the field and was 4-for-7 on three-pointers.

UNA was never able to recover after Tech’s opening run as they eventually trailed by as much as 23 points following a basket by Sanders with 3:42 left in the game. Sanders’ score gave the Wonder Boys a 73-50 lead.

In addition to Dunbar’s 22 points, senior guard Laithe Massey (Heber Springs, Ark.) scored 12 points, added seven rebounds, dished out seven assists and had four steals, while junior guard Johnie Davis (Canton, Ohio) had 11 points and Sanders added 10 points and five boards in the win. Over his last four games, Sanders has scored 61 points, including scoring 17 points in three consecutive contests.

“Willie is playing very well right now on both ends of the floor. He always brings us energy and always plays hard,” said the Tech coach.

Beaumont Beasley led UNA with 21 points, while Wes Long added 14 points and Warrick Mastin chipped in with 11 points off the bench. UNA’s bench outscored Tech’s bench, 28-23.

For the game, Tech shot 49 percent from the field and 35 percent from long distance, while UNA shot 38 percent from the floor and 53 percent from the 3-point line. The Lions held a 35-32 edge on the glass, but committed 26 turnovers that led to 33 Tech points.

Tech will now take 13 days off before returning to action on Dec. 30 as they welcome MidAmerica Nazarene to Tucker Coliseum for a 5:30 p.m. non-conference contest. Seven of those 13 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.

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