Central Arkansas guard DeAndre Jones set a new career high as the Bears knocked off the Sam Houston State Bearkats 89-82 Saturday at the Farris Center.
The Bears (5-12, 4-2 Southland Conference) were able to hold off the Bearkats (11-6, 4-2 SLC) at the end as the two teams were tied at 76 with 3:17 left in the game.
With 2:29 left in the game, the Bears took a two-point lead when senior forward Aaron Weidenaar missed a corner 3-pointer, chased the ball down and saved it to sophomore guard/forward Eddy Kayouloud as it was going out of bounds.
Kayouloud put up a shot and was blocked, gained his shot back and put the ball in the hole for a 78-76 lead.
Interim head coach Anthony Boone, described the play as huge.
“That was a play that has been uncharacteristic of our team,” he said. “The guys didn’t give up. Aaron went after it and saved it to Eddy. The other team stopped because they thought maybe it went out of bounds and we took advantage of it. That was a play that before, we would have given up on it, too. But the guys stuck with it and that was a very defining moment of the game.”
From there, the Bears didn’t trail as they hit 9 of 10 free throws the rest of the way, while the Bearkats only managed six points the rest of the way to secure the win.
The game started a little scrappy as Jones and SHSU senior guard Chad Bowie were pushing each other a bit and jawed at each other.
It was minor but it caused the officials to step in and tell both to calm down.
Also, three technical fouls were called throughout the game.
Boone said a lot of that has to do with the physicality of the Bearkats.
“It was scrappy, but a lot of that has to do with Sam Houston,” Boone said. “They are a tough, physical, hard-nosed team. We just told our guys to settle down with the ball, and focus on the defensive end because we wanted to get stops as much as we can. It didn’t work all that great because we turned the ball over a lot.
“But, our guys showed a lot of heart, grit and intensity on the defensive end. There are going to be a lot of games like this in our conference. Some of those teams are tough and physical. We can’t let that affect us on the other end of the floor.”
The Bears did struggle turning the ball over as they lost the ball 22 times throughout the game.
The Bearkats only turned the ball over nine times, but they did take advantage of the UCA turnovers as SHSU scored 29 points off turnovers to eight points off turnovers by the Bears.
Throughout the rest of the game, the two teams didn’t create much spread as SHSU’s largest lead of the game was by six points with 13:12 left in the first half and UCA’s largest lead was nine with 1:53 left in the first half.
The Bears were solid from the free-throw line, knocking down 33 of 38 shots at the charity stripe throughout the game.
It was one of the team’s better free throw output of the season.
“I think our guys were confident stepping up to the line,” Boone said. “We’ve had some games where we didn’t do so well with that — Rylan in particular struggled with that some. We just keep putting our guys in pressure situations in practice, having them shoot free throws. We don’t harp on the misses so much. We try to tell them that we know they can do it, step up to the line, have confidence and knock them down.”
Jones led all scorers in the game with 33 points, which was a career-high.
He drew 10 fouls throughout the game, stepping to the line 16 times and hitting 13 of them.
Jones grabbed seven rebounds and dished four assists.
UCA junior guard Bergersen put up 21 points in the win and was 9 of 10 from the line.
Kayouloud quietly put up a 10-point game.
Boone credited Jones and Bergersen throughout the game.
“DeAndre Jones was incredible as he has been in several games since he has came back from his injury,” Boone said. “Rylan Bergersen was incredible. He hit a couple threes and he hasn’t been shooting the ball well in the games. He has been in practice and we felt good about it, and he took good shots and he tried to get the ball to the basket and set other guys up with a few assists. He had a really good overall game. But, it wasn’t the defensive end that did it. With all of those turnovers, we wouldn’t have won that game without the defense that we played.”
SHSU graduate guard Dainan Swoope led the Bearkats with 20 points, while Bowie followed with 18 points, senior forward/center Kai Mithcell finished with 13 points and junior guard Demarkus Lampley finished with 12.
The Bears continue conference play against Stephen F. Austin — the conference leader — at home Wednesday.