Arkansas Tech women's basketball beats Central Baptist 115-59 in season opener

RUSSELLVILLE, Arkansas (ATU) – Fourth-ranked Arkansas Tech Women's Basketball opened the 2011-12 regular season here Thursday evening by topping the century mark en route to posting a 115-59 victory over Central Baptist at Tucker Coliseum.

Tech, who was picked the win the inaugural Great American Conference title, is ranked fourth in the Preseason USA Today/ESPN WBCA Division II Coaches' Poll.

The victory extended Tech's homecourt winning streak to 37 straight games dating to the 2008-09 season and also ran Tech's win streak in season openers to four straight dating to the 2007-08 season. The 37 game home winning streak is the second longest active streak in Division II.

"It was a great first game for us tonight. We had a fantastic crowd and the atmosphere was great and our players really responded," Golden Suns Head Coach Dave Wilbers said. "Everyone was making the extra pass and really pulling for each other."

The Golden Suns jumped out to a 9-0 lead just minutes into the contest and never trailed as they took a 54-27 lead to the locker room at the half. In the first half, Tech shot 54 percent from the field and committed just eight turnovers. CBU was held to 30 percent shooting from the field and committed 15 turnovers in the opening 20 minutes.

CBC (2-1) on the season never got much going on the offensive end as the Ladt Mustangs shot 36 percent (24-for-67) from the field for the game and committed 28 turnovers. Tech finished the game with 22 steals and held a 57-33 edge on the glass, including 19 offensive boards.

"We did a great job getting in the passing lanes and getting a lot of good deflections," Wilbers said.  "I was also really happy with the way our half court offense ran tonight. We have a few minor things we need to take care as we look towards our New Orleans next week. I was pleased with the way we played, though."

Tech, who finished the night shooting 56 percent from the field and 38 percent from the three-point line, reached the century mark on a lay-up by sophomore guard Breana Williams (Memphis, Tenn.) with 4:47 left in the game. Tech's lead eventually grew to as much as 58 points on a lay-up by freshman guard Haley Stinnett (Cotter, Ark.) with 1:46 left in the contest.

The Golden Suns, who scored 100 points in a season opener for just the second time in school history and first time since scoring 108 points in the 2009-10 opener against Central Baptist, had five players reach double figures as senior All-American forward Natalia Santos (Sao Paulo, Brazil) led the way with 18 points and added eight rebounds in the win. In addition to Santos, junior forward Jessica Weatherford (Bonnerdale, Ark.) posted a double-double of 14 points and a career-high tying 16 boards, while junior guard Roselis Silva (Caracas, Venezuela) ran the offense most of the night as she scored 16 points and dished out four assists in her Golden Sun debut.

Senior forward Katie Horsman (Fairfield Bay, Ark.) added 11 points, while senior forward Samanta Ludwig (Toledo, Brazil) added 10 points and seven rebounds off the bench. Silva and Weatherford both had four steals apiece to lead all players.

The Lady Mustangs were paced by Karli Kenley, who recorded 17 and five rebounds. Klancy McElroy tallied nine points and Shelby Winkle added 8 points off the bench for the visitors.

Tech will now take nine days off before returning to the court as they will host the University of New Orleans in a 2 p.m. game on Saturday, Nov. 19.

"They have a really good team that is transitioning from Division I to Division II," the Tech coach said.