THIBODAUX, La. —  The first five minutes of both halves told the story Wednesday night for the University of Central Arkansas Bears.

The Nicholls Colonels, led by senior Anatoly Bose, started fast in both halves and coasted to a 68-51 victory over the Bears at Stopher Gymnasium.

Bose, the second-leading scorer in the Southland Conference, rebounded from a sub-par performance in the first meeting with the Bears to score a game-high 23 points as the Colonels (9-17, 5-8) sustained their hopes at a Southland Conference postseason tournament berth. UCA dropped to 8-19 overall and 2-11 in league play with three games remaining.

The Bears blitzed the Colonels 64-50 on Scottie Pippen Night back on Jan. 20 in Conway. This time the Colonels took control from the start, running out to leads of 11-3 and 18-8 in the first 11 minutes. Bose had 14 points in the opening 10 minutes of the game as the Colonels shot better than 60 percent during that time.  Bose, who was held to six points in the first meeting between the teams, scored 19 in the first half. 

“They knew if they could get this one, they had a shot at a conference tournament berth,’ said UCA head coach Rand Chappell. “So we knew we were going to play a team with a lot of energy and a lot of enthusiasm. Unfortunately we ran into a pretty good home team that played pretty good.’ 

The Bears, down 23-8, chipped away at the deficit until they got it down to three points. Imad Qahwash and Tadre Sheppard put in rebound baskets, Mitch Rueter scored six points and Jared Rehmel made two three-pointers. The final one closed the gap to 31-28 with 1:10 remaining in the half.

Justin Ayers hit two 3-pointers for the Colonels and Bose added another as the Colonels pushed their lead back to eight points, 36-28, at halftime.

“I told our guys at the half, we have to do two things to have a chance to win this game,’ Chappell said, “against a team that’s playing hard on their home court. One is fight the hardest you’ve ever fought in your entire life. And two is not make very many mistakes.

“I thought on the fighting part, we graded out about a B-minus, somewhere in there. We fought pretty hard but we didn’t eliminate all the mistakes we needed to eliminate.’

Mitch Rueter, a senior from Batesville, topped the Bears with 12 points, while Sheppard had 10. UCA was 8 of 16 from three-point range and shot a respectable 46.2 percent overall. 

UCA hosts Southeastern Louisiana at 4 p.m. Saturday at the Farris Center.