UCA SPORTS INFORMATION
With their first Southland Conference victory of the season fresh in their minds, the University of Central Arkansas Bears will try to make it two straight today when they host East Division leader McNeese State at the Farris Center.
The Bears (5-14, 1-5) will face the first-place Cowboys (12-7, 4-2) at 4:30 p.m. as part of a doubleheader with the Sugar Bears, who host McNeese at 2 p.m.
UCA broke a six-game losing streak with a 72-69 victory over Southeastern Louisiana on Wednesday night in front of a raucous, season-high crowd of 2,027 at the Farris Center.
"It was very important for these guys to have some success," said UCA coach Corliss Williamson, in his first season at UCA. "Our guys have stuck with the plan, they continue to work hard everyday and do what we ask. We told them if we stay the course, we would eventually see something positive happen.
"The win helped our confidence tremendously. I think our guys know now that we can win a game when it’s close. We’ve let a lot of them slip away this year, but we finally pulled one out. I think that’s the main positive we can take away from that game is that we know we can win a close game."
The victory was the Bears’ first Southland Conference win of the season after an 0-5 start. Williamson said he and his staff hope the momentum carries over to the remaining 12 SLC games, beginning today against the Cowboys.
"The biggest thing we felt we had to guard against as a staff was the players being happy and content with just winning a game," he said. "We came in and challenged them yesterday (Thursday) at practice. We knew they were tired from the night before but we challenged them to come out and compete in practice, and they accepted that challenge.
"So we were very happy with the way they responded to winning a game."
UCA split two games with McNeese State last year. The road team won both games as the Cowboys took a 68-53 win in Conway and the Bears returned the favor, 76-72, in the season finale in Lake Charles, La.
The Bears would like nothing more than another home win before they return to the road next week with games at Northwestern State on Wednesday and UT Arlington on Saturday.
"It meant so much for these young men to have that support on Wednesday," Williamson said. "There have been times where we’ve let teams back in games and you can kind of sense that ‘oh no, here we go again’ feeling coming on. But the other night when that happened, to have our fans still there supporting us and pushing us through, it really gave our guys that mental edge.
"They didn’t look nervous coming to the huddle. They felt like they were going to go out and win that game. It’s very important for us to have a crowd like that, and not just one or two nights. That’s where we’re trying to take our program and the culture we’re trying to develop."
McNeese State leads the East Division with a 4-2 record and is coming off a 66-65 road win over Nicholls State on Wednesday.
"They have some players, it’s going to be a tough matchup for us," Williamson said. "They have some guards who are capable of shooting the basketball from three-point range. And they do a good job of breaking you down off the dribble to get them open.
"One of the biggest keys for us is dribble penetration. If we can keep the ball in front of us, that will eliminate us having to help as much and them getting open looks."