For the first time in the 2021 season, the Arkansas Tech Golden Suns will enter a game after a loss. The Golden Suns picked up their first loss of the season against Henderson State, 90-86. With the loss and other results across the conference, Arkansas Tech secured the No. 1 seed in the GAC Eastern Division for the GAC Championships.
In their last outing the Golden Suns faced off against Henderson State for the third time this season. Unlike their first two meetings, the Golden Suns could not find their stride, despite shooting 48 percent from the field.
The Reddies scored the first points of the game before the Golden Suns took one of their few leads in the game, 6-5 ith 6:15 left in the first quarter. Arkansas Tech led by four before the Reddies tied things up, 20-20 at the end of the opening quarter.
A three-pointer from Hannah Villines gave the Golden Suns a seven-point lead, 32-25 with 6:48 left in the first half. The Reddies answered right back, taking a three-point lead, 37-34 with 4:18 to go. The Golden Suns pulled within two in the final minute of the half, 44-42 before another three from the Reddies gave them a 47-42 lead at halftime.
The Golden Suns kept things within reach until the Reddies went up by double-digits, 59-48 with 5:31 left in the third quarter. A layup from Kaley Shipman pulled Arkansas Tech within four, 64-60 before Henderson State entered the final quarter of play, leading 66-60.
The Golden Suns did not go quietly, as they pulled with four, 76-74, with 4:31 left in the game. Henderson State maintained a five to seven point lead when Arkansas Tech began to foul late to stop the clock. The Reddies were focused at the line, making seven free throws in the final minute of play. Henderson State took the game 90-86.
The Golden Suns enter play against Harding with a 10-1 overall record and a 9-1 mark in the GAC. As a team, the Golden Suns are averaging 85.6 ppg and rank second in the GAC. On the defensive end of the court, the Golden Suns sport the seventh-best scoring defense in the league, giving up an average of 70.4 ppg. In terms of field goal percentage, the Golden Suns are the best in the conference as they are shooting at an overall clip of .484 (369-of-763), and limiting opponents to a .337 mark (236-of-780).
Individually, the Golden Suns have five players averaging double figures in scoring. Newcomer Ashlei Lopez leads the way at 16.6 ppg. Behind her is sophomore Kaley Shipman at 14.4 ppg. Shipman is followed by redshirt freshman Jalei Oglesby with 12.6 and senior Jayana Sanders with 12.5 ppg. Junior newcomer Nikki Metcalfe rounds out double-figure scoring for the Golden Suns at 10.8 ppg.
The Golden Suns are coached by Dave Wilbers, who is in his 14th season on the sidelines at Tech. A newly-minted member of the 300-career win club, Wilbers has a career record of 308-94. Overall in his time at Tech, Wilbers has kept the Golden Suns as perennial contenders in the GAC, the region and the nation, winning 20 or more games nine times, capturing six conference regular championships, five conference tournament championships and advancing to eight NCAA Regional Tournaments.
SCOUTING THE LADY BISONS
Harding enters their game against the Golden Suns 6-4 overall and 6-4
in the GAC. The Lady Bisons lost their most recent game against Henderson State, 82-75. The Lady Bisons last two games have been canceled due to inclement weather and COVID-19 protocols.
The Lady Bisons fell to the Reddies e after the Henderson State outscored Harding in three of the four quarters of play. The Reddies never trailed in the 40 minutes, taking a two-point lead in the first minute of play and never looking back. Harding could not pull within three until last two minutes in the fourth quarter. Henderson State led by as many as 18 throughout the game.
The Lady Bisons have four players averaging double figures. Sage Hawley leads with 15.8 ppg. Followed by Carissa Caples with 12.7 ppg, Kelli Lampo with 10.3 and Kennedy Cooper rounds out the Lady Bisons double-figure scoring with 10.0 ppg.
The Lady Bisons are coached by Tim Kirby, who is in his 16th season a Harding. In his time as a head coach at Harding, Kirby has amassed a 305-149 record.