The University of Central Arkansas Bears went cold, coach Corliss Williamson got hot and Sam Houston State went on the runs Saturday afternoon.
The Bearkats (14-11, 7-6) handed the Bears their fourth straight defeat and second in a row at home, 80-75, in a game punctuated by referees’ whistles.
The downfall for the Bears (9-15, 4-10) began when they threw away a simple inbounds pass that was barely contested. UCA led 57-56. That unforced effor led to a 14-1 run by the Bearkats that turned the final two-minutes into an erratic free-throw exhibition.
Robert Crawford’s 3-pointer with 6:09 left had give UCA a 57-55 lead. The Bears’ next field goal came with 1:32 remaining.
A free throw by James Thomas pulled the Bearkats within 57-56. After the unforced error on the inbounds pass, Thomas scored inside and made the ensuing free throw to give the Bearkats the lead for good.
The Bears missed an inside shot and Williamson was assessed a technical foul. Darius Garson made both free throws, then Thomas scored on a lane drive on a give-and-go after an inbounds pass. Sam Houston zipped to a 68-58 lead on a 3-pointer by Will Bond and a lane runner by Garson.
After the Bearkat lead reached 70-58 with 1:58 left, the Bears took advantage of some missed free throws and a late flurry to close within 76-71 before the Bearkats survived with just enough free throws.
UCA, which will play at Oral Roberts on Tuesday, shot 28 percent the first half.
Officials called 59 fouls in the game and the teams combined for 81 free throws. Sam Houston was 30 of 45 while UCA was 24 of 36.
Robert Crawford led UCA with 21 points. LaQuentin Miles added 19. Jarvis Garner had 15 and 11 rebounds.