CHARLESTON, Ill. — Junior guard DeShone McClure nailed a jumper as time expired that allowed the University of Central Arkansas Bears to pull out a 74-72 victory over the Eastern Illinois Panthers on Wednesday night at Lantz Arena.
UCA (2-3) saw a 15-point lead evaporate down the stretch, but the Bears found a way to win after failing to hold leads in home losses to Arkansas State and Sacramento State over the past 10 days.
Senior guard Robert Crawford answered an EIU 3-pointer with one of his own to keep it tied at 72-72 with 44 seconds remaining. The Panthers (3-5) missed a 3-point attempt and UCA got the ball back with under 10 seconds to play. LaQuentin Miles got off a 3-pointer but misfired and McClure grabbed the long rebound and put in the game-winner. Aftter a review, the officiating crew said the shot came just before the buzzer.
“You know, DeShone missed a couple of shots at the end against Sacramento State," said coach Corliss Williamson, “but he certainly redeemed himself tonight. That’s the thing I told our guys; if we’re going to be able to win basketball games in the closing moments, no matter what goes on for 39 minutes and 58 seconds, if you have the mental toughness to stay in there and focus on what’s going on, you can knock down big shots like DeShone did tonight."
The Bears built a 13-point lead in the first half, with freshman Zach Padgett coming off the bench to hit two 3-pointers, his first two of the season. UCA held EIU to just 28-percent shooting from the field and only eight field goals in the first half and settled for a 34-25 lead at the break.
Miles had eight points and Padgett six in the first half for the Bears.
UCA stretched that lead to 15 points on Jarvis Garner’s 3-pointer with 16:13 to play before the Panthers began chipping away at the deficit. They eventually took only their second lead of the game on Josh Piper’s 3-pointer with just less than a minute to play.
But Crawford answered less than 10 seconds later to set up the final heroics by McClure.
Miles topped the Bears with 14 points, while Garner added 12, Padgett a career-high 10 and McClure and Crawford eight each. Morris Woods led the Panthers with 17 points, hitting 8 of 12 form the field.
UCA shot 49.2 percent from the field for the game and was 9 of 25 from 3-point range. EIU shot 70.4 percent in the second half but was only 13 of 22 from the free-throw line.
The Bears return home next Wednesday, Dec. 5, hosting Tennessee-Martin, another member of the Ohio Valley Conference, at the Farris Center.