In keeping with the tone of last week, the University of Central Arkansas Bears lost power in the first half Monday.
While the Bears were without electricity, the Central Baptist Mustangs of the NAIA, came out with a kick and a gallop and dominated the NCAA Division I team for 12 minutes.
Then, Conway’s Jarvis Garner showed up with the spark plug — a big one.
Garner, who was 13 of 17 from the field and eight of eight from the line, scored 12 straight points in less than two minutes in giving the Bears the ignition on the way to a 107-82 victory over their rivals of a few blocks away in a game that was more competitive than the final margin indicated. Garner scored 10 straight points late in helping the Bears build their final cushion. He finished with a career high 38 points plus 11 rebounds.
What was intended to be a final non-conference tuneup for the Bears (5-5) turned into a scrap to keep the Christmas beat out of them.
“It was cold outside and we had to warm the engine up,” said UCA coach Corliss Williamson. “For the past few days, we’ve had some intense practices, but they (the Mustangs) got on us early and gained a lot of confidence. They played very well and hit a lot of shots.
“When you play a lower-division team like this, you worry about intensity and focus. It is like when we play an SEC team. We’re jacked up and played with a lot of emotion ... The problem was our defense. We let them shoot at will outside, we didn’t get stops and our traps weren’t crisp.”
The power surge began when Robert Crawford maneuvered for a spectacular backhanded dunk to give the Bears a 31-30 lead at 8:01 of the first half.
Garner then began his run of 12 straight points with a stuff and a steal at 7:22. He followed that with another stuff. The onslaught ended with another stuff after a steal — at the 5:30 mark — that gave the Bears a 43-35 lead. Between stuffs, and on the way to equaling his season high of 21 points in the first half, he maneuvered for a catch-and-shoot and hit six straight free throws.
That keyed a 26-5 run that tired the Mustangs, who were slowly getting into foul trouble, and gave the Bears a 56-48 lead at the half.
For the first 12 minutes, the Bears, seemingly scooting about in a Christmas funk, were clearly outhustled and outplayed by the spunky Mustangs.
CBC, sparked by the outside shooting of Blake Hanney and Spencer Caraway, led by eight points twice and by nine once. A free throw after a steal by Caraway gave the Mustangs a 30-22 lead at 8:50 and provided the wakeup call.
The Mustangs drew within six and seven points the second half before pulling away for good, taking a double-digit lead at the midway point.
Post Anthony Borden had 14 points for the Bears, DeShone McClure 11 and Jordan Harks and Robert Crawford, 10 each. Caraway led CBC with 23 points while Hanney had 21. Xavier Lindsey had 11 points and 7-0 center Carl Corman, nine points and seven rebounds.
“I thought we played hard with a lot of effort,” said CBC coach Tony Price, whose team fell to 4-8. “The last part of each half they just wore us down. Corliss does a great job of picking up the pace and getting you to play at their pace and that can cause so much havoc. I think we will be fine when we get in our conference.”
UCA was playing without guard LaQuentin Miles, their leading scorer, who is questionable for Thursday’s conference opener at Nicholls State. CBC was playing without 6-foot-9 post Armando Everette, who became ineligible at semester.