The University of Central basketball teams open a pivotal, two-game homestand Thursday night against Northwestern State teams on opposite ends of the SLC standings.

The Sugar Bears (10-6, 4-1) are tied with Stephen F. Austin (10-7, 4-1) for first place in the early going and will take on the Lady Demons (10-7, 3-2), who are among several teams right behind them. That game begins at 5:30 p.m. at the Farris Center.

The UCA women are coming off a sweep of a road trip against Incarnate Word and Abilene Christian.

The Sugar Bears have a showdown with SFA on Saturday afternoon.

Both the Bears (4-12, 1-4) and the Demons (5-11, 1-4) have lost three in a row and find themselves at the lower end of the standings. Northwestern State was the preseason favorite.

The men’s game will begin about 8 p.m.

SFA, Saturday’s opponent, leads the league with a 5-0 mark and 16-2 overall. Sam Houston State (13-5, 5-1), Texas A&M-Corpus Christian (8-11, 5-1) and Oral Roberts (10-8 4-1) are close behind.

Individually, UCA senior guard LaQuentin Miles leads the league in scoring at 22.5 points per game, while NSU’s Jalen West is fourth (18.5). West is also No. 1 in assists (6.1), steals (2.7) and free-throw percentage (85.9).

The Demons have three players averaging more than 15 points per game, with DeQuan Hicks (16.1) and Woodley (15.8) joining West. UCA’s No. 2 scorer is senior guard DeShone McClure at 15.0. Jackson is second in the league in three-point percentage at 50.0 percent.