CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas —The University of Central Arkansas Sugar Bears were without their head coach but not their defense in their Southland Conference opener Thursday.

UCA (8-4, 1-0)  kept Texas A&M-Corpus Christi without a field goal for nearly 14 minutes in the second and third quarters, then built a lead as large as 17 in the fourth and held on for a 58-50 road victory to open Southland Conference play on Thursday.

Head coach Sandra Rushing was in Mississippi due to a family medical emergency. The Sugar Bears proved themselves superior in the battle of the league's top two scoring defenses, limiting the Islanders (7-5, 0-1) to a season-low point total – 13 below their season average – on just 34 percent shooting.

"This was a program win," said associate head coach Greg Long. "It's not win No. 1 for me at all. I'm so proud of our girls – I don't know what to say. These girls knew what they had to do. They knew the best thing for Sandra was to take care of business here. We're all concerned for her and her family, our thoughts and prayers are with her. But now at least we can call her and celebrate with her a little bit.

"Coach wasn't here in the gym – but she was here. We had her folder right next to us on the bench. She had her chewed piece of gum on the table, had her cough drops and water bottles and everything else. Sandra Rushing was here – that was a Sandra Rushing team that gutted it out."

After trailing 14-13 following a first quarter in which the Islanders' Dalesia Booth scored 12 points, the Sugar Bears held the Islanders without a field goal over the final 4:13 in the second to take a 28-24 halftime lead. It was more of the same in the third quarter as the Islander field goal drought extended nearly the entire period with A&M-Corpus Christi going just 1 for 11 (9.1 percent), finally getting a shot to fall with 36 seconds left. The Sugar Bears' Kamry Orr alone outscored the Islanders and equaled them on the glass in the third, getting nine points and five rebounds while Corpus had six and five as a team.

The Sugar Bear lead grew to as many as 17 in the fourth before a late rally by the Islanders cut it to six in the final minute, but the Sugar Bears made five free throws in the last quarter after going just 2-for-2 through the first three to help keep the Islanders at arms' length.

Taylor Baudoin had 20 points, four rebounds, three assists and three steals for the Sugar Bears, while Kierra Jordan had her second double-double of the season with 11 points and 13 rebounds to equal her career high. Orr finished with 15 points, eight rebounds, two assists and two steals.

The Sugar Bears return to the Farris Center for their next three, beginning with Southeastern Louisiana on Sunday to open a doubleheader with the Bears beginning at 1 p.m..


Conway High girls

At Duncanville, Texas, Conway's girls opened the Sandra Meadows Classic with a 61-49 victory over Cypress Falls (Texas).

Reagan Roetzel led the Lady Cats (10-0) with 15 points. Myia Yelder added 14 and Asiyha Smith 13.

Conway plays host Duncanville on Friday night.