The Southland Conference preseason favorite played the part Wednesday night, particularly in the second half, as the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks pulled away for a 95-69 victory over the University of Central Arkansas at Johnson Coliseum.
SFA (6-2, 2-0 SLC) outscored UCA (3-9, 2-2 SLC) 52-38 in the second half, shooting 57.6 percent from the field and connecting on five 3-pointers in the final 20 minutes.
UCA got another substantial effort from senior guard Rylan Bergersen, who scored 19 points and added five rebounds and four assists in the losing cause.
The Bears stayed within striking distance for much of the first half, and trailed by just eight points at 36-28 after a slam dunk by graduate transfer Samson George with 2:20 to play.
But the Lumberjacks pushed the lead back to 12 points at the break by shooting 51.7 percent from the field in the half and scoring 13 points off eight UCA turnovers.
SFA could not shake UCA for the first five minutes of the second half as UCA kept the deficit at nine points on a pair of Bergersen free throws at the 14:03 mark.
But from there, SFA went on a 9-2 scoring run and never led by less than 11 points the rest of the game.
SFA had five players in double figures, led by the SLC’s second-leading scorer Cameron Johnson who scored 21 points on 7 of 11 shooting. Gavin Kensmil added 17 points off the bench as the Lumberjacks got 46 points from their non-starters.
Samson was the only other Bear in double figures with 10 points and six rebounds. Sophomore Jaxson Baker went 3 for 3 from 3-point range for his nine points, while sophomore Khaleem Bennett had nine points and senior Jared Chatham had eight points and six rebounds for the Bears, who were playing their second full game without injured senior point guard DeAndre Jones.
The Bears return home to the Farris Center on Saturday, taking on the Nicholls Colonels at 4 p.m., following the women’s game at 1 p.m.
Sugar Bears Basketball
The Central Arkansas women’s basketball team returned home for a Southland Conference matchup with Stephen F. Austin on Wednesday.
Romola Dominguez led the Sugar Bears with a season-high 12 points and added one block, but UCA (2-9, 0-3 SLC) fell to SFA (11-2, 2-0 SLC), 85-44.
After SFA opened the game with a 3-pointer, Dominguez answered with a corner 3-pointer to tie the game at 3-3, with 7:54 left in the first quarter. The Ladyjacks went on a 12-2 run and extended their lead to 15-5, with 3:49 left in the period. Tori Lasker knocked down a 3-pointer with 3:31 left in the quarter. After SFA scored six unanswered points, Savanna Walker hit a running floater in the paint as the buzzer sounded. SFA held a 21-10 lead after one.
Ruth Balogun opened the scoring in the second with a layup. The Ladyjacks went on a 7-0 run and extended their lead with 6:48 left. Dominguez hit a jumper and closed the SFA lead to 28-14.
At the 3:22 mark, Lasker stole the ball from SFA and sprinted down the court. Lasker found a cutting Charlay Conway for an easy fast-break layup and drew a foul. Conway went on to convert the 3-point play. Ayanna Trigg recorded UCA’s final three points of the half, all on free throws. The Ladyjacks took a 41-20 lead into the half.
The SFA defense picked up in the third quarter and held UCA without a field goal until 5:17 left in the third when Lucy Ibeh made a layup. The Ladyjacks finished the third on a 7-4 run and went to the fourth with a 61-30 lead.
Dominguez drained another 3-pointer early in the fourth. Lasker followed that up with a layup and made the score 64-36, with 8:07 left in regulation. Ibeh added a layup and extended UCA’s run to 6-0.
At the final media timeout, UCA trailed SFA 75-40. The Ladyjacks held UCA to one field goal in the final 4:17 of the game and went on to win, 85-44.
Ibeh finished with seven points and tied for a team-high two steals and two assists. Lasker tied a team-high two steals and two assists, and chipped in with five points. Terri Crawford collected a team-high five rebounds.
Stephanie Visscher notched a game-high 18 points for SFA. Aiyana Johnson added 16 points and had a game-high nine rebounds. Zya Nugent chipped in with 13 points and a game-high four assists. Marissa Banfield closed out the double-digit scoring for the Ladyjacks with 10.
UCA returns to the friendly confines of the Farris Center on Saturday, for a matchup with Nicholls. The game is scheduled for a 1 p.m. start time and will be the first game of a men’s and women’s doubleheader.