KATY, Texas — The University of Central Arkansas Sugar Bears are playing for a Southland Conference tournament championship and an NCAA Tournament berth.
For the second straight season, Central Arkansas will look to earn the league’s automatic bid to the tourneyas the top-seeded Sugar Bears held off a rally from 5th-seeded Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and pulled away late for a 62-44 victory in Saturday’s semifinal at the Merrell Center.
The Sugar Bears will face third-seeded Stephen F. Austin – which defeated 2nd-seeded Lamar 62-48 in the late game – for the championship at noon on CBS Sports Network.
After starting the game with a 13-0 run and keeping the Islanders (14-18) off the board for more than seven minutes, the Sugar Bears (25-4) kept the lead the rest of the way – leading 15-4 after the first quarter and by as many as 13 in the opening half. But the Islanders would not go away easily, rallying in the second half to cut the UCA lead to 44-41 with 7:49 to play.
But it would be all Sugar Bears down the stretch, as Central Arkansas closed the game out with an 18-3 run over the last 6:45, including 11 straight, to win their third consecutive game at the Southland tournament and extend their winning streak to 16.
Taylor Baudoin had 17 points and 13 rebounds for the fourth double-double at the Southland tournament in Sugar Bear history, with four points and five boards coming in the final period. But it was senior first team all-conference guard Maggie Proffitt who provided the offensive spark when the team needed it most, scoring eight of her game-high 21 in the final quarter including seven in a row for Central Arkansas after the Islanders had cut the lead to three.
Proffitt had 21 to lead all scorers, the fourth 20-point game at the Southland tournament in program history, joining Megan Herbert in 2013 and Destinee and Desiree’ Rogers in 2011 and 2012. With her three 3-pointers, Proffitt pushes her career total to 261, 10 shy of equaling the program record set by Carone Harris during the program’s Division II era.
Baudoin’s 17-point, 13-rebound effort is the program’s fourth double-double at the Southland tournament and the sixth of her career at Central Arkansas and ties her career high in rebounds. Jordan had 10 points and six rebounds in 17 minutes/
Sunday’s championship will be the third meeting of the season between the Sugar Bears and Ladyjacks, with the Sugar Bears winning 67-63 in Nacogdoches in January and 70-58 in Conway a month later.
The Sugar Bears will be in the title game for the third time in seven years and will be seeking their second straight title and NCAA tournament berth, while SFA will be looking for its 16th tournament championship as they make their 20th finals appearance since 1988.