CONWAY, AR — McNeese State scored with 3.9 seconds remaining and the Sugar Bears missed on a last-second attempt to tie, sending Central Arkansas to a 65-63 defeat in the Farris Center on Wednesday.
With the game tied at 63, the Cowgirls (15-10, 9-5 Southland) spread the floor for point guard Jayln Johnson, who drove to the basket and converted an off-balance layup to give McNeese the two-point lead. After an official review to determine how much time remained, the Sugar Bears (14-11, 7-6 Southland) had 3.9 seconds to work up a final shot.
The Sugar Bears worked the ball to Brianna Mullins, who was able to get all the way to the basket for a contested layup attempt, but it just missed – sending the Sugar Bears to their fifth defeat of the season by three points or fewer.
“I’m proud of our effort and fight, but we’ve got to figure out a way to win,” said UCA head coach Sandra Rushing. “We have to do the little things. When are we going to decide to do it? We’ve got to step it up a notch. We’re making mental mistakes in February that you’re not supposed to make when you’re trying to get to the conference tournament.”
The Sugar Bears led by as many as 10, but the Cowgirls limited UCA to just 36 percent shooting in the second half and 0 for 2 from 3-point range after the Sugar Bears were 4 of 6 in the first. The Cowgirls also converted 11 of 12 free throw attempts (91.7 percent) in the second half as the Sugar Bears were whistled for 11 second-half fouls, including three each on Mullins and Jameka Watkins, who were both playing the final possessions with four.
“Our guards got in foul trouble and that hurt us,” Rushing said. “We let them score on us time and time again. And we stopped going to the boards. We lost the game because of not rebounding.”
McNeese won the rebounding battle 43-29, including a 24-13 advantage in the second half and a 19-8 edge on the offensive glass.
The Sugar Bears got 18 points from Maggie Proffitt, with 15 coming in the first half. Kendara Watts finished with 16, getting 10 in the second half. Brittany Agee had 8 and Mullins 6. Watkins and Terai Sadler tied for the team lead with 5 rebounds apiece, and Watkins added 5 assists. McNeese was led by 18 points from Allison Baggett, 17 from Johnson and 12 from Talisa Boyd. Boyd recorded a double-double by pulling down 14 rebounds. Frederica Haywood had 15 rebounds for the Cowgirls, combining with Boyd to equal the Sugar Bears’ team total.
The loss for the Sugar Bears marks the fifth straight time in the series the visiting team has won, with the Cowgirls winning the last two in Conway and the Sugar Bears coming away victorious in their last three trips to Lake Charles. It is also the third straight loss in which the Sugar Bears have lost in the final moment, having fallen 54-52 at Northwestern State last week on a pair of free throws with 2.9 seconds left and losing to Nicholls on Jan. 24 in overtime, also missing on a last-second attempt to tie that game.
The Sugar Bears will look to bounce back on Saturday as they face Sam Houston State at 2 p.m. in the Farris Center. They will then travel to Huntsville for a return game with the Bearkats next Thursday before returning home two days later for the home finale against Southeastern Louisiana on Feb. 28.