NATCHITOCHES, LA – The University of Central Arkansas Bears were deadly from three-point range again Monday night but could not keep up with the high-scoring Northwestern State Demons in an 86-70 loss in Southland Conference action at Prather Coliseum.
NSU sophomore guard Zeke Woodley had a career-high 36 points, including 10 of 11 from the free-throw line. UCA was 11 of 24 from beyond the arc after making a season-high 13 in the first meeting between the teams, a 110-108 loss at the Farris Center.
“I thought we competed hard,’ said UCA head coach Russ Pennell. “I thought we hung in there and competed, and came back there in the second half. It just wasn’t enough.’
The Bears connected on 6 of 13 three-point attempts in the first half but the Demons shot 56.3 percent from the field overall and grabbed a 49-34 halftime lead. UCA turned the ball over 13 times in the opening 20 minutes. Freshman Jordan Howard was a perfect 4 of 4 from beyond the arc and led the Bears with 12 first-half points.
The Bears kept it close the first 10 minutes, trailing just 20-19 with 10:52 to play. A string of turnovers allowed the Demons to run out to a 10-point lead at the 3:44 mark. UCA cut the deficit back to six points on Howard’s fourth three-pointer but the Demons scored the final nine points of the half for the 15-point halftime margin.
NSU then came out of the locker room and notched the first seven points of the second half to push their lead to 56-34 with 17:51 to play. A 13-0 run by the Bears, including another three from Howard, a steal and layup from Mike Martin and a three-point play by Mathieu Kamba cut it to 59-51 with 14:30 remaining.
The scoring run reached 17-3 for the Bears and that got them within eight points but they could get no closer. UCA, down 24 points at the 6:00 mark, then held the Demons scoreless the rest of the game.
“We went to our 1-2-2 zone and I thought it slowed them down,’ said Pennell. “They started standing around and they starting taking some questionable shots like teams do sometimes against zones. That allowed us to get back in the game. But then they kind of figured it out and by then we couldn’t get back in it.’
Howard finished 6 of 7 from three-point range for 20 points to lead the Bears. Martin added 17 points, while Kamba made 17 trips to the free-throw line and finished with 12 points. Freshman Thatch Unruh had 3 threes and added 11 points.
“He (Jordan) missed some open shots last game and he was disappointed,’ said Pennell. “I think he was 7 of 20 but I liked all but about two of his shots. And typical Jordan, he went out and worked on his shot and comes out tonight and he’s hot. I told them at halftime, the only thing that bothers me is he’s 4 of 4 and ya’ll aren’t getting him the ball enough.
“He’s really a gifted young player who can score the ball, and I’m just excited he’s here. I think he’s going to have a really good career at UCA.’
The Bears return home for three straight games, beginning with a 4 p.m. game against Sam Houston State on Saturday.