KATY, Texas – Taylor Baudoin scored 20 points as No. 3 Central Arkansas moved a step closer toward a third consecutive Southland Conference Women's Tournament title with a hard-fought, 54-41 win over No. 7 Abilene Christian, moving the Sugar Bears to Saturday’s semifinal matchup against No. 2 Stephen F. Austin at 3:30 p.m.
“I thought Abilene took it to us. It didn’t show they had a game (Thursday),” said UCA coach Sandra Rushing.
Despite shooting 41 percent from the field and committing 18 turnovers, the Sugar Bears (22-8) clamped down on the Wildcats (16-14), holding them to 32.6 percent shooting one day after ACU scored 88 points in a win over New Orleans.
Sporting the second-best scoring defense in the nation, Central Arkansas held the Wildcats to 3-for-13 shooting from beyond the arc while not allowing more than 14 points in a quarter.
Abilene Christian was limited to only 43 field goal attempts, including just six in the second quarter as the Wildcats went into the intermission trailing 28-19. The Wildcats had their best offensive spurt of the game at the start of the third quarter behind the shooting of Breanna Wright, whose 3-pointer at the 6:44 mark pulled the deficit to 31-26.
It would be as close as ACU would reach. A basket from Baudoin was followed by a pair of free throws from Kierra Jordan before Baudoin added another basket to give the Sugar Bears breathing room at 39-28 with 2:25 in the quarter.
Trailing 43-33 at the start of the fourth quarter, the Wildcats attempted one last push at the Sugar Bears and trimmed the deficit to 45-39 after Lexi Kirgan’s basket with 8:08 left. Central Arkansas’ defense finally slammed the door by holding Abilene Christian without a basket for more than five minutes.
“Playing halfcourt (defense) is what we do,” said Kierra Jordan, who had 14 points and seven rebounds along with two blocked shots. “Halfcourt is what is going to carry us through the tournament.”
“Today was almost like a knockdown, drag out,” said ACU coach Julie Goodenough. “It was like neither team was going to score much. I was proud of our defensive effort, but offensively, we just couldn’t get it going."
UCA now puts its focus on an SFA team that handed the Sugar Bears two of their four defeats in regular season play.