Oral Roberts, one of the Southland Conference’s newer members, solidified its basketball standing among the league’s top teams with victories over the University of Central Arkansas on Tuesday at Tulsa.
In women’s play, the Golden Eagles (14-11, 11-4) extended their conference lead by two games in the win column with a 76-69 victory over the UCA women, despite one of the Sugar Bears’ best efforts of the season from the field. Lamar and Sam Houston State are close behind ORU at 9-4.
The loss mathematically eliminated hopes for the Sugar Bears (14-12, 7-8) of repeating as regular-season conference champions. They are now a half-game ahead of Stephen F. Austin (11-14, 6-8) for sixth place.
The ORU men, who are 17-10, 12-3 and a game out of first, handed the Bears (9-16, 4-11) their fifth straight defeat, 94-65.
UCA is a half-game ahead of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi for eighth place. However, TAMCC is ineligible for postseason play. Eight teams make the SLC tourney field. Lamar, the last-place team, is 1-13.
The UCA women hit a season-high, nine 3-pointers and were 18 of 22 at the foul line, but the Golden Eagles converted 18 turnovers into 24 points for their fifth straight home victory.
It was the most tightly-contested game in the Mabee Center the Golden Eagles had since suffering a one-point loss to McNeese State on Jan. 26. In their four home games since, they had won by an average of 35.8 points with none closer than 22.
“We wanted to win, and we fought extremely hard, but we made some mistakes you can’t make if you’re going to win a championship,” said UCA coach Sandra Rushing. “There are some little things we can take better care of, but we played extremely hard and it was so great to see them working as a unit.”
Courtney Duever led the Sugar Bears with 20 points and 11 rebounds for her 11th double-double and fifth 20-point game of the season. Megan Herbert had 16 points and 10 rebounds to record the 80th double-double of her career — the third-most ever by a Division-I player, and making her just the fifth women’s basketball player at any NCAA level with 80 or more. She also became the second-leading rebounder in Southland history, passing Northwestern State’s Joskeen Garner with 1,396.
Desiree’ Rogers had 11 points and now needs just 13 to reach 1,300 for her career, and Kelcia Bufkin added a season-high 11, nearly doubling her previous high of six. Britney Gowans had nine, hitting 3-of-7 from 3-point range.
Kevi Luper, who entered the game trailing only Herbert in the league scoring race, poured in a game-high 33 points. Jaci Bigham had 12 and a game-high eight assists, with both players adding four steals. Christian Key added seven points for the Golden Eagles.
The Sugar Bears will be off until next Thursday, Feb. 28, when they have a two-game road swing to Lamar and McNeese State.
The Eagles hit three 3-pointers in a span of three minutes in the first half to take a 15-point lead and assume control of the game for good against the Bears.
“You look at their lineup, they have some players,” said UCA coach Corliss Williamson. “They have the big guys inside, their wing players played well. They really killed us on the boards in the first half, and we just never recovered from that.”
The loss was UCA’s fifth consecutive and sixth in their past seven games. ORU won its third straight game, with the rematch with UCA coming on March 9 in Conway in the regular-season finale.
ORU scored 54 points in the paint and had six players in double figures.
“The points in the paint really killed us,” said Williamson. “They just attacked the basket and finished when they got in there. And we get inside like that, we’re not finishing. We’re rushing our shots, we’re not concentrating. It’s like we’re scared to get a shot blocked or don’t want to draw the contact. We have to figure out something there.”
For the Bears, junior guard LaQuentin Miles had 14 points, 12 in the second half. Senior guard Jarvis Garner and junior forward Jordan Harks added 12 points each for UCA.
UCA hosts SIU-Edwardsville in non-conference action at 4:30 p.m. Saturday as part of the BracketBusters event.
(UCA Sports Information contributed to this report)