HUNTSVILLE, TX – One good half for the University of Central Arkansas was not enough against the No. 2 team in the Southland Conference on Monday night.
The Bears, within seven points of Sam Houston State at halftime, went scoreless for seven minutes to open the second half and fell 76-49 at Johnson Coliseum.
UCA, starting four freshmen and playing without its second leading scorer in junior guard Mike Martin who did not make the trip, failed to score in the second half until freshman Mathieu Kamba made 1 of 2 at the free-throw line with 11:53 remaining. During that span, the Bearkats ran off a 23-0 scoring run to extend their halftime lead to as much as 30 points at 56-26.
“I thought we did a nice job in the first half,’ said UCA head coach Russ Pennell. “In fact, I thought it was one of our better halves of the year, honostly, just the way we battled. Because we got down and we fought back. Sam Houston is really good. I knew they probably got a tonque-lashing at halftime. And they came out and kind of hit us in the mouth.
“It was the same old story we’ve talked about. We have a six or seven-mintue stretch there where we just can’t do anything. I think we lost our energy and that was probably the tale of the game right there.’
Freshman forward Albert Christensson nailed a three-pointer with 25 seconds left in the first half that cut UCA’s 14-point deficit down to 33-26 at halftime. UCA trailed SHSU (23-6, 14-2) by 23 points at the break in the first meeting back in Conway, a 70-42 loss at the Farris Center.
Junior center Jake Zuilhof had 8 points and 5 rebounds in the opening 20 minutes, while Christensson had 7 points off the bench. The Bearkats made 5 three-pointers in the first half and shot 46.2 percent from the field, compared to 39.3 percent for the Bears.
The Bears went 0 for 12 and had five turnovers in the first 7:30 of the second half.. Mathieu Kamba broke the scoring drought with a free throw and Thatch Unruh followed with a three-pointer at the 11:00 mark.
But the experience and depth of the Bearkats was too much for UCA’s rebuilding team. SHSU shot 55.1 percent from the field, including a blistering 65.2 percent in the second half. The Bearkats finished 9 of 20 from three-point range and had five players in double figures. Ten players scored for SHSU, with five in double figures, led by Paul Baxter and and Kaheem Ransom with 12 each.
UCA got 11 points from freshman guard Jordan Howard, 9 in the second half, and 10 points from Christensson. The Bears shot 21.4 percent in the second half andd 30.4 percent for the game.
“What I love about Albert is he’s one of the guys on the team that comes to work every day, whether we play him, don’t play him, if he gets a few minutes, a lot of minutes,’ said Pennell. “And I think he gets the big picture. I think he’s going to be an outstanding player.’
UCA (2-25, 2-14) finishes the remainder of its season-ending three-game road trip at Nicholls on Thursday night and at McNeese State on Sunday afternoon.