THIBODAUX, La. — After four years with no hope of postseason play during the school’s NCAA Division I reclassification period, Central Arkansas put an end to its long wait on Wednesday night, securing a berth in the Southland Conference tournament in its first year eligible by defeating Nicholls 68-53 in Stopher Gym.
"It’s an unbelievably great honor," UCA coach Matt Daniel said. "This team just accomplished something that can never be erased. To be able to do that in our first year eligible is quite an accomplishment, particularly for such a young team. We’ve qualified for the tournament, but everybody wants more. The community wants more, the team wants more, I want more. Now we’ve got to go get more."
The Sugar Bears (16-10, 8-5 Southland) jumped ahead early and held on to the lead for the final 36 minutes, building it to as many as 18 — including 15 in the first half, as UCA recorded its third straight win over the Colonels (8-18, 3-10).
Megan Herbert scored the first eight for the Sugar Bears and led all players with 25 points and 20 rebounds, tying her career high and becoming the first Southland player this season to record 20 rebounds in a game. She had seven offensive rebounds, compared to just six for the Colonels, who finished with 25 total. It was the second time in her career to reach 20 points and rebounds.
"You can’t put into words what Megan brings to the table," Daniel said. "The things she does for us and our program is unparalleled as far as I’m concerned. For her to do the things she does, being just a sophomore and undersized, is incredible and her want-to is unequaled by anybody I’ve ever seen."
Herbert had 11 points and 13 rebounds in the first half as the Sugar Bears held the Colonels to 29.2 percent shooting in building a 31-17 halftime lead. UCA also had eight points in the half from each of Nakeia Guiden and Marci Moffitt. Moffitt, who knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers early in the half, had five times her season average of 1.6 points per game.
"Marci Moffitt, boy, she’s the ultimate Sugar Bear," Daniel said. "The things she does in the classroom and for her team ... she’s the one I give film to and say ‘take care of this’ and she does it. I think she feels like she could’ve been playing better all year long, but she came up big for us tonight. She’s due and deserving."
Guiden finished with 11 points, and Desiree’ Rogers added 10. Herbert, who had her 18th double-double of the season and 45th total, topped the 700-rebound mark for her career.
LiAnn McCarthy had 18 to lead the Colonels and KK Babin had 16. Ricshanda Bickham led all players with 10 assists.
The win keeps the Sugar Bears in fifth place in the league with three games left, trailing division foes McNeese State and Lamar along with being a game back of Sam Houston State and Texas-San Antonio of the Eastern Division. The Sugar Bears still play UTSA in addition to Southeastern Louisiana at home and finishing the regular season at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.