On the way to a benchmark 20th victory in a Southland Conference season, the University of Central Arkansas Sugar Bears found a 4-20 Nicholls team a major burden for the longest.
The UCA women broke to an 11-2 lead in fewer than four minutes, then found themselves in a real scrap until midway through the second half Wednesday night at the Farris Center.
The Sugar Bears (20-6, 10-3) found a gear that would work and slowly pulled away to a 83-68 victory over the Colonels (4-21, 1-12), who were unusually scrappy for a team with their record at this stage of the season.
The kept UCA atop the SLC East standings with a road trip this weekend to Southeastern Louisiana. The win also tied the Sugar Bears with Texas State in 1984 for the biggest win turnaround in SLC history.
"We came out not as hungry; I don’t know if it was Nicholls’ lack of success or whatever, but we make no excuses," said UCA coach Matt Daniel. "I try to keep everybody on the big picture and the big picture is a 20-win season, which is quite remarkable."
It was the Sugar Bears’ first 20-win season since they were 28-7 in 2004-2005, the year they reached the finals of the NCAA Division II tournament.
The Colonels were hanging around rather precariously at 43-40 with 16:30 left. Then, the Sugar Bears used a variety of weapons to mount a 19-6 run to put the game away.
"After we got the lead, we relaxed a little bit," Daniel said. "There were a lot of fouls early and we had to adjust to that."
It started with a missed layup. Megan Herbert followed her miss with a putback. Two 3-pointers by Westin Taylor sandwiched a driving layup by Nakeia Guiden. Guiden added another layup, the Britney Gowans broke for a transition basket after a steal. A pullup jumper by Marci Moffit and a free throw by Desiree Rogers completed the run that resulted in a 62-46 UCA lead.
Herbert again led the Sugar Bears with 23 points and 13 rebounds on 10-of-13 shooting from the field. Rogers added 16 points. Moffitt tied a career high with 14 points and Guiden had 10.
The Sugar Bears shot 50 percent from the field to Nicholls 38.2 percent. Shifty guard Ricshanda Bickham led Nicholls with 26.