The University of Central Arkansas Bears and Little Rock Trojans will hook it up again in the “Rock N Roar Rivalry” on Saturday, just 11 days after a nail-biting, down-to-the-wire game at the Farris Center in Conway.
The Trojans (7-2) escaped with an 89-87 overtime victory over the Bears on Nov. 29 in front of a crowd of 2,643 at the Farris Center. The Bears (1-7) sent it to overtime with a twisting jumper in the lane by senior Derreck Brooks. UCA, which trailed 11-1 to open the game, led by four points in overtime after a pair of free throws by sophomore Tanner Schmit and a jumper by Jordan Howard, but Little Rock prevailed from there.
Schmit had a career-high 22 points, hitting 10 of 14 from the field, while Howard added 19 points and Brooks 17. The Trojans had five players in double figures, led by Marcus Johnson with 18.
The last time the Bears played at the Jack Stephens Center, last December, the Trojans held on for a 79-73 win as the Bears overcame a 12-point second-half deficit to get to within four points with 30 seconds remaining.
The Bears, off this week for final exams, are coming off an 82-58 loss at No. 13/15 Butler last Saturday in Indianapolis, Ind. Howard, a first-team All-Southland Conference selection, led the Bears with 20 points, hitting 5 of 9 from three-point range. He has now made at least one three-pointer in 48 consecutive games. Brooks, UCA’s second-leading scorer on the season and the reigning SLC Newcomer of the Year, added 15 points.
Little Rock beat Arkansas-Pine Bluff 67-52 on Thursday night for the fourth consecutive victory in preparation for the second UCA matchup. The Trojans are led in scoring by senior guard Marcus Johnson, Jr., at 14.3 points per game. He leads five players who average in double figures for the Trojans, who have five seniors in their starting lineup who all average more than 24 minutes per game. Little Rock overcame an 11-point first half deficit on Thursday night by shooting 55.6 percent in the second half to pull away from the Golden Lions.
Howard, a junior from Chandler, Ariz., is fourth in the SLC in scoring at 16.8 points. He is also leads the league in 3-pointers made (22) and is fourth in free-throw percentage (91.4 percent, 32 of 35). Junior Mathieu Kamba is tied for ninth in the conference in rebounding at 6.8 per game, while Brooks is sixth in scoring (16.0) and eighth in blocked shots (1.3). Senior Jeff Lowery is eighth in assists at 3.8 per game.
The Bears continue their tough nonconference schedule next week, playing at Big Ten Michigan on Tuesday night in Ann Arbor, Mich., then hosting Arkansas State (7-2) on Friday night at the Farris Center. Road trips to Morehead (Ky.) State and Arizona State follow the next week before the Bears open Southland Conference play on Dec. 31, hosting league favorite Sam Houston State.