Bears Basketball Ready for First SLC Tourney Appearance

Courtesy University of Central Arkansas Athletics Department

KATY, Texas _ The University of Central Arkansas Bears are still playing basketball after the conclusion of the regular season for the first since the 2005-06 season.

The seventh-seeded Bears (13-16, 7-11) will open play in the 2013 Southland Conference Tournament at 7:30 Wednesday against No. 6 Sam Houston State at the Leonard E. Merrell Center.

Now that the season is extended at least one more game, UCA head coach Corliss Williamson sees no reason why it can’t be even longer.

“We are playing pretty good basketball right now,’ said Williamson, in his third season at UCA. “We’ve won four games in a row and have played pretty well. We can play better, but I’ve been encouraged what we’ve accomplished the past two or three weeks.’

Beginning with an 80-78 win over SIU-Edwardsville in its BracketBusters matchup on Feb. 23 at the Farris Center, UCA has strung together its longest winning streak of the season heading into the tournament.

“I’m really happy that we’re still playing,’ said Williamson. “And I’m really proud of how our guys have been working lately. They knew what they had to do to get into the tournament and they did it. One of our goals was to make the tournament, and they went out and accomplished that.

“We are definitely carrying some momentum into this week.’

UCA is facing a first-round opponent it has never beaten in 10 tries in Sam Houston State (15-16, 8-10), but also one that has lost two consecutive games, and five of its past six games.

The Bears, on the other hand, are coming off an 86-84 overtime win over third seed Oral Roberts last Saturday at the Farris Center. Senior forward Jarvis Garner of Conway earned SLC Player of the Week honors after scoring 34 points, including a long three-pointer from the right wing that sent the game into overtime. It was Garner’s second player of the week award of the season.

UCA, behind senior guard Robert Crawford, are second in the conference in three-point shooting at 35.4 percent. Crawford is the individual leader, shooting 43.5 percent from beyond the arc. His 84 three-pointers this season is second only to Rodney Dean’s 94 (1998-99) in school history.

The Bears have three players in the Top 10 in scoring in the SLC with Garner (16.1, third), junior LaQuentin Miles (15.3, sixth) and Crawford (15.0, seventh). Garner is also eighth in rebounding (6.9), while Mles is eighth in steals and assists.

The Bearkats have no players in the Top 10 in scoring and have none scoring in double figures. James Thomas is the leader at 9.4 points per game. Sam Houston is one of the top defensive teams in the league, allowing just 61.5 points per game, second behind league-leader Stephen F. Austin. 

SHSU swept the two meetings this season, winning 63-52 in Huntsville, Texas, in January, and beating the Bears 80-75 in February at the Farris Center.


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