The UCA men’s basketball team won its final home game of the season against the Southeastern Louisiana University Lions on Feb. 28.
With no seniors on the roster, the Bears (2-24, 2-13 Southland Conference) didn’t honor any seniors during their 74-72 win over the Lions (9-19, 6-9 SLC).
Freshman guard Jordan Howard said getting the win felt great.
“It was an awesome feeling, not only for us as a unit, but for all the fans and people who have supported us throughout this entire year,” he said. “This win was for them and never giving up on us.”
Prior to the game, senior Clint Hargis-Clay, who spent the last four years as Bruce D. Bear, was honored.
SLU won the opening tipoff, getting the game underway.
It didn’t take the Lions long to put the first points on the board, as junior guard Jimmie Duplessis hit a jumper in the paint.
Following a turnover from UCA junior center Jake Zuilhof, SLU graduate guard Cedric Jenkins made a jumper off a fastbreak.
The Bears struggled getting on the board in the game’s first three minutes, until freshman guard Thatch Unruh hit a 3-pointer, moving within one point of the Lions.
SLU struck back with a pair of baskets, bringing the score to 8-3.
After the two teams traded baskets, they were tied at 10, following a 3-pointer by Howard.
Lions junior forward Daniel Grieves broke the tie with a jumper in the paint, bringing the score to 12-10.
Howard came back with a 3-pointer, giving the Bears their first lead of the game with 10:47 left in the first half.
The two teams exchanged leads for the remainder of the half, with SLU leading 33-31 heading into halftime.
Unruh said Coach Russ Pennell told the players they could win the game, but had to change a few things.
“He said we needed to pick up the intensity and out the turnovers,” Unruh said.
Howard led all scorers in the first half with 11 points on four of eight shooting.
The Bears shot 44 percent from the field, 36.4 percent from the 3-point line and 100 percent from the free-throw line.
Jenkins led the Lions in scoring with 10 points in the first half on five of seven shooting.
SLU made 61.5 percent of its shots from the field, didn’t hit a shot from behind the 3-point arc and made 50 percent of its shots from the free-throw line.
The Lions started the second half scoring on a layup by Jenkins with an assist from Duplessis, bringing the score to 35-31.
UCA freshman guard Mathieu Kamba dunked on a fastbreak after he stole the ball from Jenkins, making the score 35-33.
SLU senior center DeVonte Upson hit a pair of free throws, increasing the Lions’ lead to 37-34.
Jenkins hit a jumper for SLU before Kamba split free throws, bringing the score to 39-35.
Duplessis made a layup and an and-one, giving the Lions a seven-point lead.
SLU maintained its lead for much of the second half, until Zuilhof tied the game at 60, making a pair of free throws.
UCA junior guard Mike Martin hit a 3-pointer, giving the Bears their first lead since the 1:44 mark in the first, bringing the score to 65-62.
UCA held the lead until the end of the game, giving the Bears their second win of the season.
SLU freshman guard Dylon Maggio hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer, but fell short of reaching UCA’s score, falling 74-72.
Martin and Jenkins led all scorers in second half points with 11 each.
Four Lions scored double figues, with Jenkins leading all scorers in the game with 21 points, followed by Duplessis (16), Upson (15) and junior forward Daniel Grieves (10).
SLU finished the game shooting 50 percent from the field, 18.2 percent from behind the 3-point line and 71.4 percent from the free-throw line.
Howard said the team defended well on the perimeter.
“We did a great job of defending their jump shots, but where we need to improve is defensively around the basket and getting to the rim,” he said. “When we get to that point, we can be great defensively.”
The Bears also had four players reach double figures, with Howard and Martin scoring 17 each, followed by Kamba (11) and freshman forward Boo Milligan (10).
UCA made 46.9 percent of its shots from the field, 40 percent from behind the 3-point line and 64.5 percent from the free-throw line.
The Lions out-rebounded the Bears 35-29, but had more turnovers (17-14) and personal fouls (22-18).
The Bears finish their season next week, starting at 7:30 p.m. March 5 in Thibodaux, Louisiana against the Nicholls State University Colonels and closing out the season against McNeese State University at 1 p.m. March 8 in Lake Charles, Louisiana.
This will be the first meeting between the two teams and will close out the season.