Sugar Bear Basketball team members have a new pinnacle to hold themselves to the NCAA tournament.
In the opening round of the 2016 national tournament, the Sugar Bears fell to the Louisville Cardinals, 60-87.
The most successful season in program history came to an end on March 18 in Louisville, Kentucky at the KFC Yum! Arena in front of 5,823 spectators. Junior guard Maggie Proffitt, the team’s leading scorer on the year, had nothing but positive things to say despite the loss.
“I thought overall we went out and played hard and fought for each other,” Proffitt said. “They were a very talented team and it was a great experience for us.”
Central Arkansas had three players score double-digit points in the loss to the Cardinals. Sophomore forward Taylor Baudoin led the way with 13 points. Baudoin was followed closely by senior forward Kendra Watts who tallied 12 points, and junior guard
Maggie Proffitt finished with 11 points.
The Sugar Bears finished their season with an overall record of 28-4 while winning the Southland Conference title with a healthy 16-2 record.
The team finished the conference season in second place behind only regular season champions Abilene Christian University. However ACU was not eligible for post-season play at season’s end, paving the way for the Sugar Bears to take the number one seed into the Southland Conference tournament. That number one seed gave the team the best opportunity possible to book its place in the national tournament, and it did just that.
After winning the Southland, UCA went into the national tournament as the number 14 seed in the Dallas region of the tournament, the upset-minded Sugar Bears looked to take down the number three seed hosts in Louisville.
“It was very cool to be the first team in our history to make it to the NCAA tournament,” Proffitt said. “Coach’s expectations are even higher for us now and I think our new goal would be to try and get back to this position and try to win a game in the tournament next year.”
Senior forward Kendara Watts, senior guard Jameka Watkins and senior center Taya Novokreshchenova all played their last game for Central Arkansas. These seniors provided leadership and examples of excellence in their time at UCA.
“It’s been amazing playing with the seniors and they have definitely been a big key to this year’s success,” Proffitt said. Proffitt, who still has a year of eligibility left, hopes to step into a leadership position after the departure of the seniors. “They were always great leaders on and off the court and they will be greatly missed.”
Head coach Sandra Rushing will be giving her players some much-deserved time off before off-season workouts begin. The team will be looking to build on what has been the biggest and most successful season in program history when the 2016-17 season tips off next winter.
This article originally appeared in the March 30, 2016 print edition of The Echo.
image via UCA Sports