The seniors for the University of Central Arkansas Sugar Bears received framed pictures and hugs Saturday afternoon. The Oral Roberts Golden Eagles collected turnovers and earned a top seed.
The ORU women (16-12, 13-5) had a 31-6 advantage in points off 24 turnovers on the way to a 68-53 victory at the Farris Center, the fifth defeat for the Sugar Bears on their home court this season after fashioning a 22-game winning streak over three seasons.
The victory clinched a regular-season co-championship for ORU in their first year in the Southland Conference. The Eagles will be the top seed in the conference tournament that begins Wednesday in Katy, Texas.
The UCA women (15-14, 8-10) will be the No. 6 seed in the tournament and will play seventh seed Stephen F. Austin at 1 p.m. Wednesday in the first round.
The loss put a sour note on the final home game for UCA star Megan Herbert, one of the greatest players in Sugar Bear history, who was honored before the game with four other seniors.
Herbert filled out the stat line on her final game in the Farris Center: 24 points, 11 rebounds (83rd career double-double,) eight of eight from the free-throw line and two of three from 3-point range.
She had very little support. No other Sugar Bear among the 10 who played scored in double figures. Fellow senior Desiree’ Rogers was three of 14 from the field. Courtney Duever had nine points and 16 rebounds (13 defensive) but led the team in turnovers with six.
“Look at the turnovers!” said UCA coach Sandra Rushing as she studied the final statistics. “We were out of sync offensively all day. We can’t play like this Wednesday or we’re coming home fast.”
ORU’s Kevi Luper, one of the nation’s leading scorers who had 33 against the Sugar Bears earlier in the season, managed only six points of two-of-11 shooting, 13 below her average.
However, Luper had support as seven of the eight Eagles who played with three in double figures. Taylor Cooper, a 6-foot-0 forward, led with 20 points and nine rebounds. Guard Jaci Bigham added 15 points and forward Savannah Buck came off the bench to add 10.
Three straight turnovers helped the Golden Eagles break to a 30-18 lead with 5:21 left in the first half.
The Sugar Bears pulled with 39-36 on a lane basket by Duever, then turned the ball on five straight possessions to spark a 9-0 run by ORU. UCA was within 50-42 with 8:06 left before back-to-back 3-pointers by Cooper helped the Golden Eagles pull away for good.
“I know one thing; they are a good basketball team,” said Rushing.
(Sports columnist David McCollum can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 501-505-1235. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us sports news at email@example.com)