CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (UCA) — Central Arkansas kept Texas A&M-Corpus Christi without a field goal for nearly 14 minutes in the 2nd and 3rd quarters, then built a lead as large as 17 in the 4th and held on for a 58-50 road victory to open Southland Conference play on Thursday.
The Sugar Bears (8-4, 1-0 Southland) – playing without head coach Sandra Rushing, who was in Mississippi due to a family medical emergency – proved themselves superior in the battle of the league's top two scoring defenses, limiting the Islanders (7-5, 0-1) to a season-low point total – 13 below their season average – on just 34 percent shooting.
After trailing 14-13 following a first quarter in which the Islanders' Dalesia Booth scored 12 points, the Sugar Bears held the Islanders without a field goal over the final 4:13 in the 2nd to take a 28-24 halftime lead. It was more of the same in the third quarter as the Islander field goal drought extended nearly the entire period with A&M-Corpus Christi going just 1 for 11 (9.1 percent), finally getting a shot to fall with 36 seconds left. The Sugar Bears' Kamry Orr alone outscored the Islanders and equaled them on the glass in the 3rd, getting 9 points and 5 rebounds while Corpus had 6 and 5 as a team.
The Sugar Bear lead grew to as many as 17 in the fourth before a late rally by the Islanders made it as close as 6 in the final minute, but the Sugar Bears made five free throws in the last quarter after going just 2-for-2 through the first three to help keep the Islanders at arms' length.
Taylor Baudoin had 20 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals for the Sugar Bears, while Kierra Jordan had her second double-double of the season with 11 points and 13 rebounds to equal her career high. Orr finished with 15 points (making 4 of 5 from 3-point range), 8 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals, and Taylor Sells led the team with 4 assists, also getting 5 points and 4 rebounds.
Booth finished with a game-high 21 for the Islanders. Brittany Mbamalu, the Islanders' top scorer for the season at 12.3 points per game, had just 7.
The Sugar Bears return to the Farris Center for their next three, beginning with Southeastern Louisiana on Sunday to open a doubleheader with the Bears beginning at 1:00pm.
• Associate head coach Greg Long assumed head coaching duties for the game in Coach Rushing's absence
• The win was the 5th straight for the Sugar Bears in their series against the Islanders and 9th in the last 11 meetings
• The Sugar Bears are now 22-1 in their last 23 games against Southland teams away from the Farris Center, including 18-1 in true road games
• Taylor Baudoin reached the 20-point mark for the 3rd time this season and 5th of her career at Central Arkansas. She has scored in double figures 11 times this season and 43 times in her two-plus seasons as a Sugar Bear
• The double-double was the 2nd of the season for Kierra Jordan and 5th overall in her Central Arkansas career. The 13 rebounds was the most for a Sugar Bear this season
• The Sugar Bears held their opposition to 50 or fewer points for the 7th time this season and 3rd game in a row, holding the Islanders, Clemson and North Dakota State to an average of 47.3 points per game
• By holding the Islanders to 6 points in the 3rd quarter, it marked the 19th time this season the Sugar Bears have limited an opponent to single digits in a quarter
Associate Head Coach Greg Long
“This was a program win. It's not win No. 1 for me at all. I'm so proud of our girls – I don't know what to say. These girls knew what they had to do. They knew the best thing for Sandra was to take care of business here. We're all concerned for her and her family, our thoughts and prayers are with her. But now at least we can call her and celebrate with her a little bit.”
“Coach wasn't here in the gym – but she was here. We had her folder right next to us on the bench. She had her chewed piece of gum on the table, had her cough drops and water bottles and everything else. Sandra Rushing was here – that was a Sandra Rushing team that gutted it out.”
“If Coach Rushing were here right now, she'd find a lot of things we did wrong – and we did do a lot of things wrong. We have to correct a lot of things, but these girls gutted it out and played tough, hard-nosed defense – and that's what she expects out of them.”
“I'm super super proud of these girls and the way they responded. Super proud of everybody on our staff. I never felt alone out there. Coach Thomas, Coach Rhodes, Coach Jackson, Kaci (Griffin, the team's athletic trainer) was back there helping me out. The team's looking at me, I look them in the eyes and they tell me 'We've got this, Coach.' Coach Rushing would be proud.”
“Coach Rushing always says that players make plays – when we needed plays tonight, our players stepped up. KJ did not have a very good first half, but we had Coach on the phone with her at halftime and she said 'you know KJ, you're gonna make those shots.' I think that really helped KJ out, she needed that. TB (Baudoin) is playing phenomenal right now, putting the team on her shoulders. Kamry struggled early, but she caught fire and really got us going in the 3rd quarter. I know we held them to 6, that's what I care about.”
“Corpus is a very, very good team – they are gonna be there at the end. Coach Chadwick does a great job with them.”
“We've got to be more aggressive with the ball. We've got to find more ways to attack. We went stagnant there for a little while and we can't do that. They outscored us in the 4th quarter, they made a run, and we knew they were going to make a run – but we can't get stagnant like we did.”