Ark. Tech tops century mark in win
RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. – Arkansas Tech opened defense of its NCAA Division II South Regional title Friday evening by shooting nearly 59 percent from the field and putting five players in double figures en route to its 102-65 win against Fort Valley State in the third of four quarterfinal games at Tucker Coliseum.
With the win, Tech, who improves to 28-2 overall on the year, extends its home court winning streak to 34 consecutive games dating to the 2008 season. The winning streak is the third longest in school history and the longest active streak in Division II women’s basketball.
“It was a fantastic way to start a regional tournament. We ran the floor well and were really efficient on offense,” Golden Suns head coach Dave Wilbers said in the postgame press conference. “I loved the atmosphere in Tucker Coliseum tonight and I hope we get an even larger crowd tomorrow night.”
Tech, who earned its second consecutive No. 1 seed in the NCAA DII Tournament, jumped out to a 14-4 lead just 4 minutes into the game and outscored the Lady Wildcats, 29-14 over the final 9 minutes of the half to push its lead to 58-40 at the half. Tech’s first-half closing run was aided by 10 points, including two of her five 3-pointers in the half, from senior All-America guard Jenny Vining.
In the first half, Tech shot 67 percent from the field and 50 percent (6-for-12) from the 3-point line. In fact, after opening the game hitting just five of its first 12 shots, the Golden Suns hit 13 of its last 15 shots heading into halftime. Tech finished the game shooting 53 percent from the 3-point line and 84 percent at the free-throw line.
“We really shot the ball well, especially in the first half,” said Wilbers, who improved to 104-20 as Tech’s coach. “FVSU is an aggressive team that is very athletic.”
The Golden Suns, who improved to 8-0 all-time in first round NCAA DII Tournament games, continued its hot shooting to open the second half as Tech hit 10 of its first 19 shots to push its lead to 85-56 following a 3-pointer by junior forward Katie Horsman with 11:32 left in the game.
Tech eventually pushed its lead to as much as 37 points at 98-61 following a free throw by freshman guard Shanae Govan with 4:09 remaining. The Golden Suns hit the century mark for the sixth time this year and first time in NCAA tournament play on a basket by freshman forward Casse Vaughn with 1:15 left in the contest. Prior to Friday’s game, the most points Tech had scored in an NCAA Tournament was 84, which came against Arkansas-Monticello on March 8, 1998.
Vining led the way for the Golden Suns as she tallied 24 points as she was 9-for-18 from the field and hit six 3-pointers, which tied her own school record for treys in an NCAA tournament game as she hit six 3-pointers in last season’s regional semifinals against Tampa. In addition to Vining, junior forward Natalia Santos scored 20 points and added nine boards, while junior forward Katie Horsman added 16 points, including hitting five treys, in just her second start of the season.
“Katie is one of the best bench players in the country and tonight she did a great job playing as a starter in place of Shaquilah (Davis),” said Wilbers, who is now 5-3 in NCAA tournament play as Tech’s coach. Horsman started in place of senior guard Shaquilah Davis, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in Tech’s GSC Tournament final last Sunday against fourth-ranked Delta State.
The final two Tech players in double figures were senior guard Laura Beth Anderson, who scored 13 points and matched her career high with 11 assists, while junior forward Samanta Ludwig added 12 points and eight boards off the bench. Tech finished the game with a 23-22 edge in points off the bench.
FVSU, who ended the season with a 22-10 record, was paced by 19 points from KaDiedra Freelandm, while Brandi Haynes added 12 points in the loss.
Tech finished the game with a 54-34 edge on the glass and outscored the Lady Wildcats, 34-18, but committed 25 turnovers. FVSU had 14 turnovers, but Tech scored 28 points off those turnovers.