It came down to a battle of two teams who have stumbled over the free-throw line this season.
Sam Houston State cleared the hurdle the most times Saturday at the Farris Center.
The Bearkats (14-11, 7-5), a 68.5 percent free-throw shooting team going in, hit eight in a row in the final 1:40 to pull away to a 70-62 victory over the Bears, who lost their 20th game against five victories.
UCA (5-20, 1-11), a 64 percent team at the line going into the game, hit 11 of 14, but the Bears were forced to foul and give the Bearkats a free chance to pull away. The free-throw surge came after a gallant effort off a pressing defense helped overcome a 14-point lead and helped the Bears tied things at 62 on a rebound basket by Mike Pouncy with 1:57 left.
Gilberto Clavell, the Bearkats’ leading scorer who had 22 points, hit four free throws in a row that sandwiched two of UCA’s three misses by Carlos Dos Santos with 1:19 remaining.
Josten Crow and Lance Pevehouse closed out the game with four more free throws.
UCA trailed 54-40 with 9:44 left.
"The last 10 minutes we really buckled down and fought hard," said UCA coach Corliss Williamson, whose team frustrated SHSU with a 1-2-2 zone that it pulled out to a half-court trapping defense. "Defensively, we had to slow them down with their zone. We were able to get pressure and score off turnovers. Our guys fought back and mentally locked down and said, ‘We can win this game.’ We made our shots when we got to the foul line. But we put them there 28 times."
A running jumper by walk-on Jaquan McClinton, which he turned into a three-point play, that pulled UCA within 59-55 with 4:52 left, seemed to be a psychological catalyst.
"We’ve found out that when Jaquan is in there, he’s gonna play with his all," Williamson said. "I thought the effort he gave brought our guys together even more."
Tadre Sheppard, who did not score in the first half, gave the Bearkats fits in the lane area on the way to a game-leading 16 points of six-of-seven shooting from the field and four of four from the line.
"He took on a challenge and played inspired," Williamson said. "He gave us a spark the second half. His play was one reason why we got into it."
Pouncy added 16 points and Dewan Clayborn 10.
A uncutre at the end of the first half, after the Bears had fought from 10 down to six, also stung the Bears. They were trailing 29-23 and had the chance for the last shot. They missed a 3, then allowed Marcus Williams to quickly drive the length of the court for a layup with 1 second left to put the Bearkats up by eight.
"That hurt," Williamson said. "We talked about that at halftime. You just can’t give up a layup in that situation. It was a big swing."
The UCA men will continued their homestand Wednesday night against Nicholls State.