One University of Central Arkansas team will try to build on a streak while another tries to right itself as a Southland Conference homestand continues Saturday at the Farris Center.
The Sugar Bears (7-5, 1-0), on a two-game winning streak after a 66-62 victory over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in their conference opener Thursday, will play league newcomer Houston Baptist at 2 p.m. The Bears (3-9, 0-1) will try to rebound from an 81-66 defeat to the Islanders in which they didn’t do much right, will take on the Huskies about 4:30 p.m.
After Saturday’s games, UCA teams will play three straight conference games on the road.
UCA coach Clarence Finley saw several things he didn’t like in practice last week and it carried over to the game as the Bears lost to an A&M-Corpus Christi team (4-10, 1-0) that won for the first time on the road this season.
“We played like we practiced Wednesday and Thursday,” Finley said. “Usually we come back and play well after we don’t practice well. We didn’t tonight. We played just like we practiced. We didn’t do very much right. I thought I had them ready to play, but I didn’t. We’re a better ballclub than what we showed tonight.”
The Islanders, who were able to get inside the UCA defense all night, got 30 points off 21 UCA turnovers. They steadily pulled to an 11-point lead at halftime, extended that to 21 in the second half and were never seriously challenged.
NUMBERS: UCA was 5 of 23 from 3-point range. The Bears were outscored in the paint, 50-37, and 48-11 on bench points.
“I thought we took some quick shots, some quick 3s that we didn’t have to take tonight intead of taking the ball to the rack,” Finley said. “We settled for the 3 and we just had too many turnovers. Some of them were unforced turnovers, a situation where we just didn’t handle the ball well.”
STAT LEADERS: Freshman Jalen Jackson led the Bears with 21 points. Senior LaQuentin Miles added 19. John Jordan led the Islanders with 21 points and six assists. Post Rashawn Thomas had 18 points on eight-of-11 shooting, mostly on easy inside baskets.
“We never controlled Jackson on the outside,” Finley said. “He stayed in our paint and they made several inside baskets off that.”
LAST CHANCE: The Bears drew within 70-62 with 2:47 left, sparked by a four-point play by Jackson after he made a free throw after being fouled on a 3-point basket. The Islanders responded by ripping through the pressing UCA defense for three layups and a slam dunk to push the lead back to double-digits.
In addition to her 24 points, Courtney Duever had 15 rebounds, two assists, three blocks and two steals.
During an 11-1 run, in which the Sugar Bears turned the game around after trailing, 58-53, Duever maneuvered nicely for a baseline drive and came up with a steal, a rebound and blocked a shot, capping a string of five straight points. She hit one of two free throws with 6.5 seconds left to clinch the victory.
“She played 37 minutes and I thought 35 of those were smart minutes; she got a little tired toward the end,” said UCA coach Sandra Rushing.
FREE THROWS: In a contest in which the score was tied eight times and there were five lead changes, neither team scored a field goal in the final 6:06.
The Sugar Bears pulled away, then held on by hitting 10 of 13 free throws down the stretch, nine of 10 at one point.
During that stretch, Terai Sadler was six of six.
HOLDING ON: The Sugar Bears led by four with a minute left, then committed two straight turnovers to give the Islanders a chance, trailing by three with 16.5 seconds left. Terai Salder partially blocked a 3-point attempt that led to a clinching free throw by Duever.
STAT LEADERS: Sadler and Maggie Proffitt, who was two of three from 3-point range, had 12 points each.
NUMBERS: UCA had a 38-27 rebound advantage but committed 17 turnovers to the Islanders’ 10. UCA shot 48.9 percent for the game and held the Islanders to 37.9 percent shooting, 33.3 percent in the second half.
INJURY: UCA guard Kelsie Ewings went down early in the first half, writhing in pain. She left the game for good and trainers later put a bandage around her chest.
The UCA athletic training staff said she re-aggravated an injury to a ligament that connects a rib to the sternum. The situation apparently flares up from time to time. She is expected to return to the lineup Saturday.