HUNTSVILLE, Texas — The University of Central Arkansas Bears went cold in the second half Wednesday night and the Sam Houston State Bearkats took advantage, grabbing a 76-59 victory in Southland Conference play at Johnson Coliseum.
Down just five at halftime, the Bears (7-17, 2-10) came out and made just 26.3 percent from the field in the second half, including just 3 of 14 (21.4 percent) from three-point range. The Bearkats (11-15, 5-7) hit 47.4 percent from the field after halftime and connected on 23 of 32 from the free-throw line. UCA was 8 of 14 for the game.
"Our shooting in the second half was just bad,’ said UCA head coach Corliss Williamson. "And a lot of those shots were inside the paint, layups or drives to the basket. I thought we were able to attack the basket but just couldn’t get ths shots to fall.
"When you can’t make those shots, it makes it tough to find a way to win,’
Junior Robert Crawford scored 11 first-half points for UCA, hitting all three of his three-point attempts as the Bears trailed 34-29 at halftime. Junior center Anthony Borden was also active inside, going 4 of 4 from the field. After UCA fell behind 34-26 with a minute remaining, Crawford nailed a rainbow three-pointer from the right wing in the final seconds.
The Bears put together a 7-0 scoring run early in the second half and got to within two points, 42-40, on a three-pointer by senior guard Dewan Clayborn at the 15:00 mark. SHSU returned the favor with a 7-0 run of its own, good for a 50-40 lead with nine minutes left to play.
The Bearkats took their biggest lead of the game at 59-44 when Steven Werner converted a layup with 5:30 to play. UCA came back with a 7-2 run, capped by Jarvis Garner’s conventional three-point play that made it 62-53 at the 3:59 mark. But the Bearkats quickly pushed the margin back to 13 points on an inside basket by Marcus James, and a combined four free throws from Darius Gatson and Demarcus Gatlin.
UCA, which shot 31.9 percent overall and was outrebounded 49-32, misfired on consecutive possessions and had a turnover on another as the Bearkats closed out the game with an 14-6 run to set the final margin.
The Bearkats dominated inside, scoring 38 points in the paint. Six-foot-7 forward Marcus James finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds and 6-8 forward Steven Werner had 17 points and 10 rebounds. Konner Tucker added 14 points and Gatlin had 12 for SHSU.
"Those two are big and strong and they did a good job of sealing our guys in the paint,’ said Willamson. "Especially in the first half, they really jumped out on us and took it to us. We gave them angles to the basket rather than making them fight for position and shooting over the top. Their big guys really stepped up and played well for them.
"And they just beat us up physically on the boards, and that’s very disappointing.’
Garner topped the Bears with 16 points and 6 rebounds, while Crawford had 12 points, but just one in the second half. UCA’s defense forced 18 turnovers.
The Bears return to the road on Saturday for a Sears BracketBuster game against Louisiana Tech in Ruston, La. Game time is 3:30 p.m.