Courtesy University of Central Arkansas Athletics Department
CONWAY — The nation’s third-longest home winning streak came to an end on Thursday night as the Sugar Bears fell 77-61 to McNeese State, suffering their first defeat in the Farris Center in nearly two years.
Entering the game, the Sugar Bears (12-6, 5-2 Southland) had won their last 22 at home – their last loss coming in March of 2011 to UAB in the opening round of the Women’s Basketball Invitational postseason tournament. They had won their last 25 regular-season home games, and last 13 against Southland Conference competition.
All that came crashing down in the second half on Thursday as the Cowgirls (9-9, 4-3) shot 64 percent (16 of 25) from the field and outscored the Sugar Bears 43-29 en route to their first victory in Conway since 2008.
The Sugar Bears dug themselves into a big hole early in the game, falling behind 20-4 before rallying to take a 32-29 lead with just 1:21 left in the half. The Cowgirls closed with the half’s final five points to hold a 34-32 edge at halftime.
That margin held through the first five minutes of the second half, but the Cowgirls outscored the Sugar Bears 21-8 over the next 10 minutes to build a 66-51 lead and effectively put the game away as UCA never drew closer than 12.
In the meeting of the league’s two highest-scoring tandems in McNeese’s twin guards Ashlyn and Caitlyn Baggett, and UCA’s Megan Herbert and Courtney Duever, the Cowgirls’ duo had a slight 32-28 edge, with Herbert and Duever being held to eight total points in the second half after 20 in the first. Caitlyn Baggett had 18, including 7-of-8 at the free throw line, and Ashlyn Baggett had 14. The Cowgirls were led, however, by forward Cecilia Okoye who poured in a career-high 21.
Desiree’ Rogers, who was 0-for-11 from 3-point range on the season coming into the game, was 3-for-3 on Thursday en route to a season-high 23 points, the third-highest of her career and most since putting up 24 against Stephen F. Austin in the 2011 Southland Tournament. She added five points, four assists and two steals while playing all 40 minutes. Duever and Herbert each had double-doubles for the second consecutive game, with both scoring 14 points and Herbert grabbing 12 rebounds and Duever 11. Herbert also moved into fifth place in Southland history in scoring, passing Stephen F. Austin’s Annie Norris with 2,067.
The Cowgirls had 20 assists to just seven turnovers, while the Sugar Bears had 14 turnovers that led to 16 Cowgirl points. McNeese also had a 48-34 advantage on points in the paint, and 20-4 in fast break points.
The Sugar Bears will be at home again at 2 p.m. on Saturday, hosting Lamar – which suffered a 77-48 loss to Oral Roberts on Thursday.