In the throes of a two-game Southland Conference road losing streak, the University of Central Arkansas men return to the Farris Center on Thursday for a two-game homestand against the two top teams in the league.
Stephen F. Austin, the opponent Thursday, is 12-1, 3-0 in conference. Northwestern State, Saturday’s opponent, is 8-4, 2-0.
"I’ve told the players that two losses don’t make a season, and the guys have stayed with it and come to work in practice," said UCA coach Corliss Williamson, whose team is 5-7, 0-2.
The Bears lost two four-point games (to Nicholls State and Southeastern Louisiana). Williamson said at Monday’s weekly Bearbacker luncheon he thought both were winnable games.
A major problem has been turnovers that have led to points by opponents.
Against Nicholls State, the Bears had 22 turnovers that led to 21 points, 14 turnovers from three starters. Against Southeastern Louisiana, the Bears had 18 turnovers that led to 26 points. On the other hand, UCA, an up-tempo, pressing team, only generated five turnovers from Southeastern.
"We cut that in half against Nicholls and we win by four points or so," Williamson said. "Against Southeastern, we could hold on to loose balls or rebounds. We shot well but the second half was like the winter storm that hit Arkansas. All our power got suddenly knocked out."
Williamson said the officials are allowing more physical play this season.
"We have to do a better job in practice of being more physical with each other," said Williamson, who was known as a physical player for the Arkansas Razorbacks. "I think the officiating is getting better and they are letting guys play. I tell our guys that I wish I could get out there and throw a few elbows for them."
Meanwhile, Sandra Rushing’s Sugar Bears (9-4) went 2-0 on their Louisiana road swing and have won five of their last six games, establishing themselves as solid contenders to defend their SLC championship,
Post Meagan Herbert, a two-time SLC Player of the Year and the Player of the Week in the Southland for last week, enhanced her standing as one of the best players in school history. She has 72 career double-doubles and set an SLC record this week with 556 career made free throws and broke a record that has stood for more than two decades as the Sugar Bears’ career rebounding leader.
But Rushing also praised the contributions of forward/post Courtney Duever and forward Brittany Gowans, two players who have come into their own this season.
"Courtney has so much ability and I love our high-low with her and Meagan," Rushing said. "She just needs a tougher mentality. BG brings so much energy and so much fun. I told her in practice that if she hit two jumpers in a row, I would run up and down the sideline. When she did it Saturday, she asked, ‘where was the run.’ I told her she missed it. So if you see me running up the sideline, you’ll know I owe her two runs."
Both Thursday and Saturday games will be doubleheaders, according to the new SLC format this season. Thursday, the Sugar Bear game will begin at 5:30 p.m. and the men’s game about 7:30. Starting times Saturday will be 2 p.m. for the Sugar Bears and about 4 p.m. for the men. Between games Thursday, the Sugar Bears will be presented with their SLC championship rings from last season.
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