UCA SPORTS INFORMATION
CONWAY — Two days after the Central Arkansas men’s basketball team orchestrated a triple-overtime victory against McNeese State Thursday night, the women’s team took their turn on Saturday as the Sugar Bears needed an extra period to battle back from a 12-point second-half deficit and defeat Lamar 67-62.
Senior Britney Gowans drove the length of the floor in the final seconds of regulation, getting into the lane and sinking a high-arcing layup at the buzzer to force the extra period with the game tied at 57. Then, with 14 seconds left in overtime and the Sugar Bears leading by one, Gowans collected a rebound on a missed basket from Lamar’s Alice Robinson, was fouled and hit both free throws to put the Sugar Bears ahead 65-62.
That cushion proved to be enough as Lamar’s Kalis Loyd misfired on a 3-point attempt, and Megan Herbert closed it out with two more free throws with one second remaining to give the Sugar Bears (13-6, 6-2 Southland) the victory over the Lady Cardinals (12-6, 5-3).
"I’m so happy with the way our team responded," said Central Arkansas head coach Sandra Rushing. "I thought everybody responded well and fought extremely hard. We learned a lot about our team today. I loved our fight, and thought we played extremely hard, particularly on the defensive end. And how about Britney — I don’t have any timeouts, and she drives the length of the floor and makes that shot to get us to overtime. I’m so proud of our entire team today. That was a great ballgame."
After Jarvis Garner hit a pair of last-second three-pointers in the Bears’ win on Thursday, Gowans drew from those heroics as inspiration in the final seconds of the Sugar Bears’ win on Saturday.
"I got the ball and thought about what Jarvis did Thursday night," said Gowans, who finished the game with 10 points and was 2 for 3 from 3-point range. "We always talk, I call him my big bro, and he told me before the game that we had to go out and respond. I had the ball with six seconds left and remembered what he did, so I figured if he can do it, I can do it. I knew I could dribble the length of the floor in that time, and I was able to get the shot up and it went in."
After getting outscored 43-29 by McNeese State in the second half on Thursday, the Sugar Bears flipped it on Saturday by holding Lamar without a field goal for more than 11 minutes in the second period and putting together a 23-6 run to build a five-point lead.
That lead was short-lived, however, as the Lady Cardinals responded with an 8-0 run of their own to take a 56-53 lead with 1:38 remaining. But an offensive rebound and outback from Herbert with 11 seconds got the Sugar Bears back within one, and after one free throw from Loyd, Gowans’ last-second drive sent the game to overtime.
"We knew we couldn’t fall apart today," Gowans said. "We had to stick together and respond as a team after the way we played on Thursday. Everybody was so down afar that, we came out and told ourselves we’ve got to make a statement and show we can bounce back. Coming into the game, Coach Rushing said the message needed to be that we don’t back down from anybody. We kind of let McNeese push us around and lost our toughness, so our goal was to come out and play hard and show that nobody’s going to bully us."
Herbert and Courtney Duever each had double-doubles for the third straight game as both scored 18 points and Herbert pulled down 16 rebounds and Duever 15. It was the 76th double-double of Herbert’s career, breaking a tie with former LSU star Sylvia Fowles and putting her alone in sixth place in Division I history. She needs just three more to move into third.
Desiree’ Rogers had eight points, five rebounds and tied for the team high with three assists in addition to being tasked with defending Loyd for much of the game.
Loyd, who became Lamar’s career scoring leader after getting 16 points in the first half, was held to nine in the second half and overtime on 2 of 12 shooting. Robinson added 11 points for the Lady Cardinals.
"We preach defense all the time," Gowans said. "We feel like any one of our players can guard anybody. Loyd is really, really good and gave us a hard time in the first half, but credit to Desiree and Kelcia [Bufkin] for holding her down."
The Sugar Bears dominated on the boards, out rebounding Lamar 49-32 and getting 23 second-chance points to Lamar’s four. The Sugar Bears were 19 of 25 (76 percent) at the free throw line, while Lamar was 14 of 20 (70 percent), equaling the final margin of victory.
After splitting this week’s games, the Sugar Bears will be home for two more next week as they host Southeastern Louisiana on Thursday and Nicholls on Saturday.