(Photo Courtesy: Josh Golf)
SAN ANTONIO, TX (UCA) - The University of Central Arkansas Bears figured they would be facing one of the top perimeter teams in the Southland Conference on Thursday night. But it was a superior inside attack that carried the Incarnate Word Cardinals to an 87-72 victory over the Bears at the McDermott Center.
The Bears (4-11, 1-3) were the better team from the outside, making 9 of 17 from three-point range (52.9 percent) but the Cardinals scored 48 points in the paint and had five players in double figures to win their initial home SLC game. UIW, the top three-point shooting team in the league, was just 2 of 14 from beyond the arc, including 1 of 8 in the first half.
"We just couldn't defend them in the half-court situation,' said UCA head coach Clarence Finley. "We kept it close but we just couldn't get over the hump. We'd cut it back down but then we just couldn't make a play when we needed to.'
Senior LaQuentin Miles, who led four UCA players in double figures with 21 points, scored 13 first-half points but the Bears let the Cardinals put together an 11-2 run in the closing minutes of the half and trailed 37-32 at the break. UCA had 11 turnovers in the first half and finished with 18.
The Bears came out and promptly fell behind by 11 points in the opening two minutes of the second half before junior guard Aubrey Ball brought UCA back. Ball hit three three-pointers and Jalen Jackson nailed a jumper to get the Bears within 49-47 just three minutes later.
The Cardinals (14-2, 2-1) answered that run, and several more down the stretch. UCA was down 12 points with 12:30 left but fought back to a 63-61 deficit on DuShaun Rice's three-pointers at the 8:15 mark and was within three points with 4:09 to play.
But the Cardinals closed out the game by scoring the final 11 points, hitting 7 of 8 from the free-throw line in the last 17 seconds.
"We were trying wear them down with the press, but we had some situations where we just didn't get back and they got some easy buckets,' said Finley. "They would build the lead back up and just couldn't get over the hump.
UCA had three other players in double figures behind Miles, with Tirrell Brown and DeShone McClure scoring 13 each and Ball finishing with a career-high 12. Brown had his third double-double of the season in just seven games with 12 rebounds.
Anthony Horton was 9 of 11 from the field to lead the Cardinals with 21 points. Denzel Livingston added 19 points, while Sam Burmeister had 12, Justin Philippe 11 and leading scorer Kyle Hittle 10. Ian Markolf, a 7-foot center, had 6 points and 19 rebounds for UIW.
UCA's road trip continues Saturday afternoon at Abilene Christian, another SLC newcomer. Tip-off is 3 p.m.