After a week off, the University of Central Arkansas Bears and Sugar Bears will renew their quest for positioning in the Southland Conference tournament this week.
The Bears will play McNeese State at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Farris Center. The Sugar Bears will take on the Cowgirls at the same time in Lake Charles, La. Saturday, both teams will host Nicholls.
The UCA men are sixth in the conference at 7-5. McNeese State is 5-7. After the Cowboys, the Bears have a tough stretch of teams ahead of them beginning with conference leader Nicholls.
"There are 13 teams in our conference and eight will make the tournament. Three of them bottom five (Houston Baptist, Incarnate Word and Northwestern State) are basically eliminated but we have to be careful not to get ahead of ourselves," said UCA coach Russ Pennell at the weekly Bearbackers luncheon. "We have three weeks and six games to get the job done."
The Bears have never been to Katy, Texas (site of the conference tournament) in the four years under Pennell.
"I feel we can play with anyone in the league," he said. "Our goal is to get to Katy. If we can get to Katy, whoever gets hot can win it and I have the league's best player (Jordan Howard).
"Some kind of postseason is possible if we can finish above .500. I want to this group to finish strong."
The Bears are 13-12.
UCA post Hayden Koval is fourth in the nation in blocked shots after a triple double last week. Twenty players in NCAA Division I have had triple doubles but Koval is the only player that the third statistics was blocked shots.
Among active DI players this season, Howard is the No. 1 scorer in the country for his career.
The UCA women are aiming to finish in the top two in conference and gain a double-bye in the tournament.
"If we can take care of things in our final six games, we still have a shot at the double-bye," said associate head coach Greg Long. "Our women are in tune. We just have to keep pushing them."
McNeese State is 11-12, 7-5 in the conference. But the Cowgirls have won four of their last six games.
"They beat Abilene Christian (one of the SLC leaders) by 21," said Long. "They go to the boards and hey go to the boards."
Long and head coach Sandra Rushing have shown their players video of games earlier in the season in which they played with high energy.
"This is the team we had, we tell them," he said. "This is what we are capable of. After some time off, we feel better where this team is. The players are responding."