EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. — A late rally by Central Arkansas came up short and the Bears were dealt their first loss of the season as they fell, 100-93, on the road at SIU-Edwardsville on Saturday night.
Trailing 12 with under three minutes to play, the Bears (1-1) got a jumper from DeShone McClure followed by a 3-pointer from Oliver Wells to pull within 89-82 with 2:07 to go. Wells and McClure traded scores with the Cougars (1-2), but the Bears cut their deficit to five with just under a minute to play on a 3-pointer from Jalen Jackson.
The Cougars made 9 of 10 free throws over the game's final 73 seconds to maintain their lead and earn their first victory of the season.
"Every time we made a move back at them they made a shot or they made their free throws," said UCA coach Clarence Finley. "They made crucial free throws down the stretch and that was the difference."
The Cougars converted 30 of 37 free throws (81 percent), while the Bears were 20 of 28 (71 percent).
"We were able to get away with some of the reaching against Hendrix [in Tuesday's season opener], but we didn't tonight," Finley said. "We were reaching too much and didn't contain the dribbler very well, and sent them to the line and they made 30 of 37."
UCA got 23 points from Jackson, who had 22 in his collegiate debut against Hendrix on Tuesday, and a career highs of 22 from McClure and 21 from Wells. Jackson also had a game-high eight rebounds.
"I thought our effort was good," Finley said. "We made a move to get Jalen the ball down the stretch and he delivered, and we got a big game from Oliver Wells. McClure did a lot for us as well, but most of his was in the first half and he got in foul trouble. But those three played well, especially Jalen as a freshman."
The Bears hit 11 3-pointers, outrebounded the Cougars 36-32 and were virtually even in turnovers with 19 to SIUE's 18, but the Cougars shot 56 percent from the field to UCA's 47, and held the 10-point advantage at the free throw line. "We got it done on the boards, rotated centers in there and they all did a good job battling," Finley said.
"We just didn't do a good job of containing the dribbler tonight and that broke our back." The Cougars had six players in double figures, led by Tim Johnson with 21 and Donivine Stewart with 15.
The Bears return to action in the Farris Center on Wednesday when they host Louisiana Tech at 7 p.m.