HAMMOND, La. — A tale of two halves did in the University of Central Arkansas Bears on Saturday in their Southland Conference matchup with the Southeastern Louisiana Lions.
The Bears (5-7, 0-2) shot 61.5 percent from the field in the first half and led by eight at halftime. However, they connected on just 31 percent in the second half and, coupled with a rash of turnovers, lost 72-68 at the University Center. UCA, which made nine three-pointers for the game, including 7 of 10 in the first half, misfired three times from beyond the arc in the final seconds of the game.
“In the second half, we just shot the ball terribly,’ said UCA head coach Corliss Williamson. “We were 9 of 29 for 31 percent. And we had a lot of good looks. You just can’t do that. And we started turning the basketball over and they capitalized off those turnovers.
“We’ve had a problem with it the past few games. We gave up 21 points off turnovers against Nicholls (on Thursday) and we gave up 26 tonight. It’s just like we couldn’t hold onto the basketball, whether it was a loose ball or a rebound or whatever. We just didn’t play strong in the second half.”
“You have to give the other teams credit, they understand right now that if they are physical with us, we can’t handle it and we’ll turn it over. They’re doing a good job of scouting us right now and we have to do better in practice as far as preparing ourselves for that.’
Down 28-24 with 8:40 remaining in the first half, the Bears outscored the Lions 17-5 to end the half, with senior center Anthony Borden providing the exclamation point with a dunk at the buzzer for a 41-33 halftime lead. UCA shot 61.5 percent from the field in the first 20 minutes, including 7 of 10 from three-point range. Jarvis Garner was 4 of 4 and Oliver Wells was 2 of 2 from beyond the arc.
The Bears quickly extended their lead to a high of 14 points on an inside basket by junior forward Jordan Harks, who scored 6 of UCA’s first 8 points of the second half, for a 49-35 lead with 17:17 remaining. But the Lions put together a 13-2 run to close the gap to just 51-48 with 10:10 on the clock.
Ryan Williams broke the drought for UCA with a pair of free throws but SLU answered with two of its own from Roosevelt Johnson. Fortenberry then made two free throws and nailed his fifth three-pointer to give the Lions the lead for good at 55-53 with 7:19 left.
The lead reached 64-56 as the Lions scored five straight points before Robert Crawford connected from three-point range to cut the deficit to 64-59 with 3:30 left. Crawford added a rebound basket to keep the Bears within five, then nailed another three from the left wing to close it to 66-64 with 1:53 remaining.
From there, Roosevelt Johnson scored twice for the Lions (3-9, 1-1), both matched by Harks, but after his second basket made it 70-68 with :42 seconds, UCA did not score again. SLU made 2 of 4 at the line and UCA misfired on three hurried three-point attempts.
Harks finished with a team-high 17 points, while Crawford added 15 points and Garner 14 points and 9 rebounds. Fortenberry topped the Lions with 23 points, hitting 5 of 10 from three-point range. Johnson added 16 points and 12 rebounds.
“Jarvis really had it going in the first half, but unfortunately, he got into foul trouble and that affected him in the second half,’ said Williamson. “Jordan Harks played well tonight, battling inside. And Robert Crawford, even though he struggled early in the game, knocked down some big shots for us in the second half.’
UCA returns home to the Farris Center to face Stephen F. Austin at 7:45 Thursday.