NICHOLLS STATE HOLDS LEAD ALMOST FROM START IN 68-62 VICTORY OVER UCA
By DAVID MCCOLLUM
LOG CABIN STAFF WRITER
The turning-point decision Saturday afternoon came with 11:46 left in the first half.
KK Babin, Nicholls State’s physical and emotional leader, picked up her second foul with the Colonels leading the University of Central Arkansas Sugar Bears, 18-9. Instead of taking her out — the customary course of action — Nicholls State coach DoBee Plaisance told her to play on.
Did she ever.
Babin, a crafty 5-foot-4 guard, scored 18 points the first half and broke a long, second-half drought by scoring 14 of the Colonels’ last 15 points as Nicholls State sent UCA tumbling in the Southland Conference race with a 68-62 victory at the Farris Center. The Sugar Bears (13-8, 6-4) came into the four-game homestand with a 22-game regular-season home winning streak. They went 1-3 in the four games and now face an extremely challenging road schedule the remainder of the season.
Babin finished with 32 points (six of seven from 3-point range), six assists and three steals.
“I left her in (after the second foul) because she’s KK Babin,” said Plaisance. “You take most players out with two fouls in that situation. With her, it’s not necessary. We needed her leadership and tenacity. With her court savvy, we knew she was smart enough to handle it.
“We wanted to keep attacking. If you quit being aggressive against a great team like UCA, they will bury you. It was a gamble, but I felt we had to take and KK was one of the few players who could handle it.”
Nicholls State (13-8, 5-5), which picked the UCA defense apart inside and in building a 17-point lead in the first half, never trailed after the Sugar Bears led, 4-3, in the first two minutes.
As the UCA women made a spirited run in the second half, the Colonels responded to charge after charge with big plays.
The Sugar Bears managed to tie the game at 60 with 3:58 left on a lane drive by Desiree Rogers. She missed the resultingfree throw. Babin then nailed a 3-pointer with the shot clock winding down, then added a lane drive with 2:39 left to pull the Colonels away for good. Babin did not score in the second half until 6:50 remaining.
“She’s smart enough to know they were going to concentrate on her after that first half,” Plaisance said. “She got her teammates involved. You could see her vocal leadership on the court and in the huddle. And when the time came to step up, she wasn’t going to let us lose.”
In a typical effort, UCA’s Megan Herbert got 19 points and 19 rebounds. As usual, she had limited support. Rogers added 15 points and did a creditable job defending Babin the first part of the second half before the Nicholls guard went off from near and afar. Courtney Deuver added 15 points and Britney Gowans nine. Only two other players (Julia Mason and Tracey Parsons) scored and they just had two each.
As usual, the Sugar Bears’ ballhandling was suspect, committing 24 turnovers that led to 18 points off turnovers.
Herbert had to play the point and take the ball upcourt most of the second half. Playing a dual role, and with Babin pressuring her, seemed to wear her down..
“People know how she can go off offensively, but she’s a heck of a defender,” said Plaisance. “Just a special player who had a special night, a career night.”
But the rival coach also had high praise for Herbert, the Sugar Bears’ senior post.
“Megan is one of my favorite players,” she said. “She’s very competitive and makes big plays on the floor. But she has a great demeanor off of it, high character and I know she’s a good student. She’s the example of a true student-athlete. I’m rooting for her to have her best night every night except against Nicholls State.”
UCA coach Sandra Rushing declined to talk to either the UCA radio network or the media afterwards.
“We cannot expect to win the conference playing like this,” said assistant Shemeka Russell. “What Megan is having to do is very tiring. Someone has to step up at guard.”
The UCA women play Thursday night at Stephen F. Austin, where they have never won.
(David McCollum can be reached at 501-505-1235 or email@example.com)