The University of Central Arkansas men’s basketball team shot 54 percent from the field and was guilty of just six turnovers Saturday as they held on for a 107-96 double overtime victory over the Eastern Illinois Panthers at the Farris Center.
The Bears didn’t make it easy on themselves, as they hit just 26 of 46 free-throw attempts but improved to 71 percent at the line in the overtime periods, including a 4-for-5 effort from LaQuentin Miles to seal the victory.
Miles finished the evening with a double-double, notching 22 points and 10 rebounds.
"Q has potential to be a very good basketball player," UCA coach Corliss Williamson said. "Once he learns to play at the highest level at all times, he’ll be pretty good for us."
The Bears were also boosted by the return of sophomore forward Jordan Harks. The Lombard, Ill., native, seeing his first action of the 2011-2012 season, scored 16 points and hauled in six rebounds. He also supplied lots of energy to his Bear teammates.
"It was great to have Harks back out there," Williamson said. "He brings great energy and really inspires the other guys on the floor."
During a stretch of the game, it didn’t appear the Bears would need any extra periods to come away with the victory. A 10-2 UCA run capped off by a Harks layup with 7:57 to play in regulation gave the Bears their largest lead of the evening at 66-53. After a Panther timeout, Eastern Illinois quickly cut the lead to one at 71-70 after going on a 17-4 run of their own.
UCA extended the lead to four at 76-72 after Miles hit one of two free three throws. Then EIU’s Jeremy Granger, playing with four fouls, took the game over. Granger hit a jumper to cut the UCA lead to two and then hit a game-tying three pointer with just seven seconds remaining on the clock. UCA had one final shot but a Miles’ jumper at the buzzer came up a bit short and the two teams headed to overtime.
"We knew Granger would be a tough match-up for us," Williamson said. "We just kept telling our guys that they have to find a way to contain him and they did a good job of keeping their composure."
Granger led all scorers in the game, finishing with 27 points.
In the first overtime period, UCA held an 88-84 advantage with just 13 seconds left on the clock but Granger again got to the basket and cut the lead to two. After UCA converted one of two at the line, EIU guard Joey Miller banked a three-pointer off the backboard as the buzzer sounded to force the second overtime.
UCA left nothing to chance in the final overtime period as the UCA full-court pressure defense picked up, forcing three Panther turnovers which led to five Bear points. UCA never trailed in the second OT and converted seven of eight free throw attempts, helping secure their second victory of the season.
Eastern Illinois actually held a 49-45 edge in the rebound department and had a 23-12 advantage in second chance points. The Bears forced 18 Panther turnovers however, and had an impressive 4 to 1 assist to turnover ratio.
Mark Rutledge had a game-high seven assists to go along with his 17 points. Terry Tidwell finished with 18 points and seven rebounds. Junior forward Jarvis Garner added 11 points and seven rebounds in the winning effort.
UCA returns to the floor on Wednesday when they will play at Tennessee-Martin. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.