Bears Advance photo

The University of Central Arkansas Bears are playing host to the North Alabama Lions on Saturday as both teams look to improve their standing in ASUN Conference competition.

Following the postponement of Saturday’s Central Arkansas Sugar Bears game against North Alabama, the Bears men’s basketball team will take on North Alabama as the lone game played on Scottie Pippen Court in the Farris Center.

The Sugar Bears’ game was postponed due to ASUN COVID protocols, changing the schedule doubleheader to a single featuring two teams projected in the bottom half of the ASUN Conference preseason polls.

The UCA Bears (5-11, 2-1 ASUN Conference) enter Saturday’s game, coming off a 22-point loss to Bellarmine, in which, defensively, there wasn’t much they could do against the Knights.

In the second half, Bellarmine nearly knocked down 70 percent of its shots (20 of 29), while hitting 63 percent of its shots for the game.

Senior guard Dylan Penn was a near-unstoppable force as he carried the Knights with 38 points on 18 of 22 shooting, finishing as the lone Bellarmine player in double figures.

A trio of Bears, sophomore guard Collin Cooper, freshman guard/forward Ibbe Klintman and sophomore guard Masai Olowokere finished in double figures with Cooper leading the way with 15. Klintman and Olowokere finished with 13 and 12, respectively.

UCA’s season-leading scorer junior guard/forward Darious Hall was held to six points because of foul trouble. He eventually fouled out of the game.

Also troubling the Bears was their second leading scorer freshman guard Camren Hunter scoring just three points in the contest.

Meanwhile, North Alabama (8-8, 1-2 ASUN Conference) picked up a confidence-boosting one-point win over Eastern Kentucky at home.

After an EKU 3-pointer with 1:31 left in the game, both teams went on a scoring drought until UNA senior guard C.J. Brim was fouled with five seconds left.

Brim tied the game and subsequently took the lead on a pair of game-winning free throws.

The Colonels attempted a jumper on the other end for the win, but it was missed and the clock was dribbled out.

With the focus for both teams now on each other, North Alabama will look to even up both its and UCA’s conference records while the Bears will look to stay in the top half of the ASUN’s West Division.

Prior to the season, North Alabama was voted in the ninth spot in both the coaches and media polls, while the Bears were voted 11th in the coaches and 12th in the media.

With three ASUN games under their belt, the two teams have shared two same conference opponents.

The Lions opened ASUN play on the road at Lipscomb, losing 84-74, while beating Eastern Kentucky in the latest ASUN contest, 76-75.

The Bears, on the other hand, picked up back-to-back wins over those opponents, beating EKU 79-72 to kick off conference play, and turned around and beat Lipscomb, 93-88, at home last Sunday.

Coming into Saturday’s contest, only one Lion, freshman guard Daniel Ortiz, is scoring in double figures with 10.9 points per game.

Sophomore forward Damian Forrest leads the team in rebounding with 6.3 per game, while Brim holds the team-lead in assists with 45.

Forrest also leads the team in blocks with 18, while junior guard Jamari Blackmon leads the team in steals with 20.

As previously mentioned, the Bears are led by Hall’s 12.8 points per game, while Hunter averages 21.4.

Cooper is the third Bear averaging double figures this season with 10.6.

Hall also leads the team in rebounding with 7.6 per game, while Hunter leads the team in steals with 23.

Hunter holds a narrow edge over Hall in assists with 42 for the team-lead, while Hall has 41. Graduate forward Jared Chatham leads the team in blocks with 14.

The Bears and Lions will tip off at 3 p.m. Saturday on Scottie Pippen Court at the Farris Center.

The game will be broadcast on ESPN+ as well as 91.3 FM.

Andy Robertson is the sports editor of the Log Cabin Democrat and can be reached at arobertson@thecabin.net.

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