RUSTON, La. — The Louisiana Tech Bulldogs missed their first field goal attempt of the game Saturday but not much after that as they raced past the University of Central Arkansas Bears 84-62 in a Sears BracketBuster matchup at the Thomas Assembly Center.
The Bulldogs (13-14) shot 59.4 percent from the field in the first half and made eight three-pointers on the day. The Bears struggled with shooting and turnovers for most of the day, shooting 3.49 percent overall, 3 of 17 from three-point range, and registering 18 turnovers.
"I thought in the first half, we played OK in spurts,’ said UCA head coach Corliss Williamson. "We had a good game plan but I think our guys might have gotten a little over confident when we scored the first two baskets. Then instead of playing solid defense, we started lunging at passes and gambling. That led to their open shots.
"We know from the scouting report that this was a team that kept the floor spaced and attacked off the dribble. When we started gambling, things went south for us."
The Bulldogs used a 9-0 run to end the first half to take their biggest lead of the game at 48-31 at halftime. UCA scored the first five points of the game before Tech got rolling on offense and outscored the Bears 12-2 over the next three minutes to take a 12-7 lead. The Bulldogs, who made 7 of 11 three-point attempts (63.6 percent) in the first half, then outscored the Bears 12-0 to take a 38-25 lead with 3:50 remaining.
UCA broke the drought with a three-pointer from Robert Crawford at the 3:20 mark, and used a 6-0 run of its own to pull within 39-31 with 2:30 remaining. But the Bulldogs scored the final nine points of the half for the 17-point halftime margin.
Freshman guard Raheem Appleby of Jacksonville scored 16 of his team-high 18 points in the first half, going 7 of 8 from the field and 2 of 2 from three-point range. Garner led the Bears with 11 first-half points.
The Bulldogs then held UCA without a field goal for the first five minutes of the second half and pushed their lead out to 27 points. UCA made just 9 of 36 field-goal attempts in the second half (25 percent) and was 1 of 9 from three-point range.
"The second half, we definitely did not shoot the basketball well at all,’ said Williamson. "Anytime you go out and shoot 25 percent in the second half, that’s a recipe for disaster."
UCA sophomore LaQuentin Miles, the fourth-leading scorer in the Southland Conference, had 18 points to lead the Bears. Sophomore forward Jordan Harks added 13 points and 7 rebounds, while junior Jarvis Garner scored 11. Cordarius Johnson followed Appleby with 16 points for Tech, while Romario Souza had 13 and Michale Kyser 12.
"I’ve been on Jordan about taking the ball hard to the basket, and he did that tonight.’ said Williamson. "I was very proud of him for his effort, his energy. I was also proud of LaQuentin Miles tonight. He tried to bring the energy and compete tonight.
"We had a few guys there who tried to play hard and compete, but we also had some who did not play up to their potential, effort-wise, and that was disappointing."
UCA returns to SLC play on Wednesday at Nicholls State. Tip-off is 6:30 p.m. in Thibodaux, La.