Sugar Bears Come Up Short at Oral Roberts

Courtesy University of Central Arkansas Athletics Department

Despite outgunning the Southland’s top 3-point shooting team and shooting 82 percent from the free throw line, Central Arkansas came up just short in its bid to knock off league-leading Oral Roberts on Tuesday as the Sugar Bears fell 76-69 at the Mabee Center.

The Sugar Bears (14-12, 7-8 Southland) hit a season-high nine 3-pointers and went 18 of 22 at the free throw line, but the Golden Eagles (14-11, 11-4) converted 18 UCA turnovers into 24 points and held on for their fifth straight home victory.

“I thought our effort was great,” said UCA head coach Sandra Rushing. “It was a hard-fought game, and I’m very proud of our players. There’s nothing for us to be ashamed of tonight. I thought we played with heart, and I’m seeing a team that’s coming together. This time of year, that’s what you want to see. This team does not realize how good they can be. It’s so great to see them working as a unit, and they played extremely hard. I’m very proud of them. Now we’ve just got to get home and get back to work.”

The Sugar Bears came back from a 10-point halftime deficit to take a lead less than nine minutes into the second half, and trailed by a single point with just more than eight minutes remaining, but the Golden Eagles outscored UCA 17-9 over the next 5:30 to build the lead back to nine and pull away for the win.

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 game 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,” Rushing said. “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 1,000 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 travel to Lamar for the first leg of a two-game road swing that will take them to McNeese State for the Cowgirls’ senior day on March 2. The regular season concludes March 9 in the Farris Center against ORU.

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