Big games loom Saturday for both Central Arkansas men’s and women’s basketball teams with six games remaining in the regular season.
Both teams hit the road to Huntsville, Texas, to take on Sam Houston State University.
For the men, the Bears (9-16, 8-6 Southland Conference) have now won four of their last five with a 73-68 home win over the University of New Orleans on Wednesday.
UCA put together a strong second half after a disappointing first half to secure a victory over the Privateers in the win.
Shooting percentages were reversed for both teams in the two halves with UNO shooting 48.3 percent and the Bears shooting 35.7 percent in the first half, while the Privateers shot 37 percent and UCA shot 56 percent in the second half.
Bears junior guard DeAndre Jones came alive in the second half, scoring 15 of his 20 points in the half.
But, up ahead for a UCA team that is playing good basketball is a Sam Houston State Bearkats (16-9, 9-5 SLC) team that has been the inverse of the Bears lately.
After UCA beat SHSU 89-82 on Jan. 11 in the Farris Center, the Bearkats reeled off a four-game winning streak.
Following that was a troubling three-game streak that was broken by a 79-70 win Wednesday over Southeastern Louisiana.
That three-game losing streak came against conference-leader Stephen F. Austin, lowly Incarnate Word and current conference runner-up Nicholls State.
All three loses were by a narrow margin.
But, the Bears are looking for a season-sweep after the aforementioned 89-82 win.
In the win, UCA crashed the boards hard, outrebounding the Bearkats 47-28.
Jones also returned from an injury in that win, scoring 33 points, while grabbing seven rebounds and four assists.
Graduate guard Dainan Swoope led SHSU in scoring during the game with 20 points.
The Bears kept Bearkats season-leading scorer sophomore guard Zach Nutall in check, allowing Nutall to score just seven points, compared to his 15.1 points per game average.
Senior forward Kai Mitchell leads the team in rebounds per game with 6.0 as well as blocks with 30.
Senior guard Chad Bowie leads the team in assists with 68 and steals with 57.
Junior guard Rylan Bergersen leads UCA in points per game with 15.3, while junior center Hayden Koval leads the team in rebounds per game with 7.6 and blocks with 78.
Jones leads the team in assists with 86, while sharing the team-lead in steals with junior forward Jared Chatham.
With a win, the Bears and Bearkats will be tied in the conference standings.
Game time is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. in Huntsville, Texas, following the Sugar Bears and Bearkats game earlier in the afternoon.
The Sugar Bears (11-12, 7-7 SLC) most recent loss in New Orleans saw UCA put forth one of its better offensive performances of the season.
Shooting 51.8 percent from the field was not enough as the Sugar Bears managed just 73 points to the Privateers’ 85.
Though the offense was on point, the defense left something to be desired, allowing UNO to shoot 60.4 percent from the field in the loss, including a blistering 58.3 percent from 3-point land on 7 of 12 shooting.
The Privateers also knocked down 80 percent of their free throws on 25 attempts.
However, UCA got another big performance from junior guard Briana Trigg as she scored a game-high 19 points.
It was the second consecutive outing she has had a scoring outburst, scoring 24 in a 70-49 win over the McNeese State Cowgirls on Feb. 8.
Prior to Wednesday’s loss, the Sugar Bears were riding a three-game winning streak.
The Bearkats will look to have a three-game winning streak of their own after winning their previous two games over Nicholls State and Southeastern Louisiana.
Wins haven’t been hard to find for SHSU as the team currently sits in second place in the conference with an 11-3 record, sitting one game behind conference-leader SFA.
The Bearkats’ losses came against 10-3 Abilene Christian, 10-3 Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and 7-6 Incarnate Word.
When SHSU came Jan. 11 to the Farris Center, it used a 20-7 second quarter to beat the Sugar Bears.
The Bearkats took advantage of 25 UCA turnovers, turning that into 25 points.
SHSU had four players in double figures in that game, led by sophomore forward Amber Leggett and junior guard Faith Cook’s 13 points.
Senior guards Jenniffer Oramas and Jaylonn Walker followed with 12 and 11 points, respectively.
Leggett leads the Bearkats in points per game with 15.5 and steals with 66.
Redshirt forward La’Sha Haynes leads the team in rebounds per game with 7.2, while senior post Kiera McKinney leads the team in blocks with 40.
Oramas leads the team in assists with 83.
The Sugar Bears are led in points per game and assists by senior guard Taylor Sells, who is averaging 9.3 and 64 assists.
Junior forward Hannah Langhi leads the team in rebounds per game, blocked shots and steals.
The game is scheduled for tip-off at 1 p.m. in Huntsville, Texas.