Both University of Central Arkansas men's and women's coaching staffs felt good about Saturday's victories at Northwestern State of Louisiana — for different reasons.
The Sugar Bears rebounded from being handed their second Southland Conference loss earlier in the week at Stephen F. Austin. After an upset of SFA, the Bears won their second straight game by defeating NSU at Natchitoches, La.
Head coach Sandra Rushing was not happy with the loss to SFA — by lack of effort, UCA associate head coach Greg Long said at Monday's weekly Bearbackers long. He was filling in for Rushing, who was speaking at the Little Rock Tipoff Club.
"The bottom line is we are not playing hard," Long said. "Coach (Rushing) said we are going to put the 'w' back in work. Coach Rushing has based heer career on hard work and giving effort no matter the circumstances. We are not going to get away from that."
The Sugar Bears (15-6, 8-2) now begin playing a series of games against teams in the lower part of the standings, beginning with Southeastern Louisiana in Hammond of Saturday.
"There are four or five team battling for the seventh or eighth spot and a tournament berth and they are playing really well right now," Long said. "We would like to give our team a little time off this week but they haven't worked for it."
The Bears (12-11, 6-4) have moved into thr top eight in the standings and are in contention for a SLC tourney berth.
"It's fun to be playing relevant games in February," said UCA coach Russ Pennell, speaking by phone while on a recruiting trip.
the Bears have followed the SFA win with a wire-to-wire road win in a game that they were the favorite.
"You are going to win a game sometimes that you surprise people but sometimes it's hard to follow that up with a win in which you are supposed to be the better team," Pennell said. "It's easier to play at team like UCLA, Cal or Oregon because the expectations are not as high and you play with more freedom."
The SFA victory was a boost.
"I can see it gave us a little more confidence," said Pennell, whose Bears also play Saturday at Hammond. "When you are building a program, you sell dreams. When they don't happen immediately, some doubt creeps in. When you get a victory like that then all the hard work, all the talk and all the film work becomes a truth in what they can actually do."