Saturday’s women’s basketball game against Sam Houston State will be Central Arkansas’ annual Pink Zone game benefiting the Conway Regional Cancer Center, with a health fair beginning at noon in the Farris Center lobby.
But when the game tips at 2 p.m., the Sugar Bears will have an entirely different color on their minds – black.
As in blackjack.
The Southland-leading Sugar Bears (20-4, 10-1 Southland) will look to reach the program goal of "hitting blackjack" – getting win No. 21 – for the third straight year when they host the Bearkats (13-9, 8-3), who lead the league’s West Division.
After winning exactly 21 games in each of the previous two seasons, the Sugar Bears have a chance to reach that goal with a quarter of the conference season still remaining, and would be the first Southland team to win 21 in three straight seasons since 2
Doing so on Saturday will be a difficult task against the Bearkats, which have won their last three games by an average of 19 points per game.
Though they have three losses – all on the road at McNeese State, Stephen F. Austin and Texas State – their eight league wins have been by an average of 17 points. Only one, a 65-56 win at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, has been by single digits.
The ‘Kats feature one of the league’s top tandems in junior guard Britni Martin and junior forward Sequeena Thomas. Martin is third among Southland players in scoring this season at 16.4 points per game, just behind Megan Herbert’s 17.1, and averages 18.5 points in league play. Martin is also the league’s top 3-point shooter, having made 3.3 per game at a 45 percent clip.
Thomas is the one player in the league with a higher rebound average than Herbert, averaging 11.9 to Herbert’s 10.9. Thomas is averaging 14.9 rebounds per game in conference games.
The Bearkats proved problematic for the Sugar Bears in their most recent meeting, defeating UCA 66-54 in Huntsville last season – a game in which the Sugar Bears committed 28 turnovers. Martin had 23 points, including five 3-pointers, and six assists, and Thomas had 17 points and 12 rebounds.
The Sugar Bears will be attempting to run their record to 14-0 this season inside the Farris Center, where they are averaging a league-best 1,340 fans per game including an average of 1,402 in conference games.
Both teams come into Saturday’s game having had an open date on Wednesday. The Sugar Bears last played last Saturday at McNeese State, where they defeated the Cowgirls 64-53 to deal them their first home conference loss since 2010.
That win gave the Sugar Bears a sweep over McNeese, putting UCA two games ahead of the 8-3 Cowgirls with five remaining in the regular season and in possession of the tiebreaker. The Bearkats are the league’s only other three-loss team.
Surrounding the game, which is sponsored by Crain Automotive Team and Zaxby’s, will be several Pink Zone events in conjunction with the Conway Regional Cancer Center, including:
— Free Pink Zone T-shirts to the first 300 fans
— Free admission to anybody wearing pink who makes a donation of $2 or more to the Conway Regional Cancer Center
— Health fair in the Farris Center lobby beginning at noon
— Halftime recognition of cancer survivors and a special performance with UCA Honey Bears dance team