LAKE CHARLES, La. — The University of Central Arkansas Bears made it a clean sweep of McNeese State on Saturday, beating the Cowboys 68-67 in another game that went down to the final buzzer.
After the Sugar Bears beat McNeese State in overtime in Saturday’s opener, the Bears had to come back from a 17-point first-half deficit to get the victory and the season sweep of the Cowboys. UCA beat McNeese in triple overtime in the first meeting in Conway on Jan. 24.
The trio of seniors Jarvis Garner and Robert Crawford and junior LaQuentin Miles combined for 48 points and 29 rebounds. Crawford had 18 points, hitting 4 of 8 from three-point range, while Miles had 17 points and 10 rebounds. Garner added 13 points and 14 rebounds for UCA, which outrebounded McNeese 49-39.
The Bears, winners of three consecutive game, struggled early while the Cowboys were making 6 of 11 from three-point range in the first half to take a 40-32 lead at halftime. But UCA quickly got back in the game in the second half with a 10-4 run in the opening three minutes. From there, neither team led by more than five points in a back-and-forth second half.
“We knew it being their senior night, McNeese was going to come out and make shots and take it to us,’ said UCA head coach Corliss Williamson. “We wanted to make sure we withstood their run early. You had (Desharick) Guidry go 5 for 6 from the three-point line, and he hasn’t shot like that all season.
“We withstood that and made our own little run right before halftime and we felt confident about the momentum of the game going into the locker room.’
UCA (12-16, 6-11) was up 59-54 with 8:05 to play after Garner made two free throws. Two minutes later, the Cowboys took a 62-61 lead on Jeremie Mitchell’s layup. Garner then put UCA ahead for good with two free throws with 5:56 to play.
The Bears had two chances to seal it late but missed four consecutive free throws, with 9.3 seconds left and again with 5.5 on the clock. The Cowboys rebounded the second miss but Desharick Guidry pulled up from the top and misfired on a jumper at the buzzer.
“I think we settled down in the second half and really hit our stride,’ said Williamson. “LaQuentin Miles really got some big buckets for us in the second half, attacking the basket. We got two of their key players in foul trouble and that really worked to our advantage.
“Our three big guns really stepped up for us today. Those three are able to score the basketball and you can tell they really hit the boards for us today.’
For the game, UCA was 14 of 25 from the line (56 percent) but outrebounded McNeese 49-39, including 18 offensive rebounds.
Desharick Guidry topped the Cowboys with 24 points, hitting 6 of 8 from three-point range. Three others scored 10 points, with Craig McFerrin pulling down 17 rebounds.
“Coming into this game, you worry about the guys maybe being a little complacent or kind of passive after solidying a spot in the tournament,’ said Williamson. “But they came out and were ready to play. We fought through the adversity and made it a really good day.’
UCA closes the regular season at home next Saturday against Oral Roberts at 4 p.m. at the Farris Center.