LAKE CHARLES, LA — With 51 seconds off the clock, Central Arkansas' Courtney Duever made a pair of free throws to give the Sugar Bears the lead over McNeese State.
They kept it the entire game.
It was never in doubt for the Southland-leading Sugar Bears (13-6, 7-1 Southland), who jumped out to a 7-0 lead and never let the Cowgirls (11-8, 4-4) any closer than four points – leading by double figures for nearly all of the final 30 minutes en route to a 65-50 victory at the Lake Charles Civic Center.
The win is the Sugar Bears' fifth in a row, and their eighth in nine games.
"I think this is a huge victory for us," said UCA head coach Sandra Rushing. "I'm very happy to come on the road and get a win like this. We had a very good first half, I'm not as happy with the 2nd half but a win is a win and I'm proud of how we hung in there. There were a couple times things weren't going our way and we could have folded and let them back in it, but we kept fighting and I'm very pleased. It's always good to win, but especially to do it on the road. This is one we needed."
In winning in Lake Charles for the third straight season, the Sugar Bears shot 46.9 percent from the field while keeping the Cowgirls to 38.2 percent. UCA held a 38-26 rebounding advantage and took advantage of their free throw opportunities, making 14 of 15 (93.3 percent) while McNeese was just 4 of 9 (44.4).
"I thought that was a big difference in the game," Rushing said. "We hit our free throws and rebounded well. Those are things we have to keep doing. I thought there were some things we could have done better, but we did those things well and I'm pleased with our effort there."
Duever had 15 points and 12 rebounds for her fourth straight double-double, and freshman guard Maggie Proffitt added a game-high 17 points – her highest output of the conference season and most since scoring 18 against Arkansas State on Dec. 21. Fellow freshman Brianna Mullins added 12 points and seven rebounds. Senior guard MIcah Rice added five points, five rebounds and three assists, and Brittany Agee had four poitns to go with her seven rebounds.
McNeese was led by Cecilia Okoye's 15 points and eight rebounds, and Allison Bagett's 14 points and 4 rebounds.
The Sugar Bears shot 53.1 percent in the first half as they built a 46-27 halftime lead – their largest in conference play and biggest halftime lead since leading Philander Smith by 22 on Dec. 30. Though they were limited to 19 second-half points, the Sugar Bears were still able to extend their lead to as many as 22 midway through the half.
The win is the Sugar Bears' fourth in the last five games against the Cowgirls, improving to 11-5 all-time against McNeese. The Sugar Bears will travel to Thibodaux, La. to face Nicholls – which beat Oral Roberts 71-60 to move to 10-9 overall and 5-3 in conference games.