Photo Courtesy: UCA Athletics (Bradley Widding)
CONWAY, Ark. (UCA) -- Fittingly, the three University of Central Arkansas seniors shined the brightest on Senior Day on Saturday afternoon at the Farris Center.
Forward Jarvis Garner of Conway nailed another long three-pointer to send the game to overtime, then center Anthony Borden tipped in a shot at the overtime buzzer to give the Bears a thrilling 86-84 victory over the Oral Roberts Golden Eagles in the regular-season finale.
The victory, UCA's fourth straight, gave the Bears (13-16, 7-11) the seventh seed in next week's Southland Conference Tournament in Katy, Texas. UCA will open against No. 6 Nicholls State at 7:30 Wednesday at the Leonard E. Merrell Center.
Garner, UCA's top clutch performer for the past two seasons, hit another big three from his normal spot on the floor, 30 feet out on the right wing, that tied it at 75-75 and sent it to overtime. It was Garner's fifth three-pointer of the game and the third time this season the 6-foot-7 forward had come up with late-game heroics. He hit three-pointers to send the McNeese State game into both the first and second overtimes at the Farris Center back in January.
UCA had to overcome an 11-point deficit to get to the extra period this time against a team that had won the first meeting 94-65 last month in Tulsa. The Bears did it with pressure defense and solid three-point shooting. UCA finished 10 of 23 from three-point range (43.5 percent), with Garner making 6 of 11 and Crawford 3 of 8.
Garner finished with 34 points, Crawford added 18 and Borden had 8 points, 6 rebounds and 5 blocked shots.
"Wow, what a way to go out on your senior night,' said UCA head coach Corliss Williamson. "Anthony making that last shot, Jarvis making one to put us into overtime. Rob had 18 points. Our seniors played really well for us tonight. I'm just so proud and happy for them to go out with a win at home.'
The Bears made 4 of 6 from the field in overtime, while ORU was just 2 for 8. For the game, UCA shot 50 percent, had only 12 turnovers and blocked seven shots.
Midway through the overtime period, Garner and ORU's Warren Niles traded three-point shots, with Garner's tying it at 80-80 with 3:00 to play. Borden turned in a big blocked shot and Crawford scored inside for UCA . Niles then hit another three for the Golden Eagles, and was fouled and completed the four-point play for an 84-82 lead with 1:23 on the clock.
Garner was fouled and made both free throws to tie it again. Crawford blocked Shawn Glover's shot attempt and also pulled down the rebound. Garner misfired on a three but Borden grabbed the ball and tipped it in just before the final buzzer to end it.
"Late in the game, I'll put Jarvis up against anyone in the country,' said Williamson. "He wants that basketball, he wants to take that last shot. He's made so many big-time shots for us this year, and from the same area. If I'm a team scouting us, I'll never let him catch it on that side.
"And Anthony really made a big play for us. That's got to be the biggest play of his career. He did an excellent job of just sticking with that ball. It bounced around a couple of times and he finally got it to go in. I can't put it into words, we were just so happy.
"He's worked hard for us and we've pushed him and tried to get the most out of him. For him to have a big play like that at the end of a game, that's going to do huge things for his confidence going into the conference tournament. That's something we definitely need, him playing with some passion.'
Niles led the Golden Eagles with 30 points, hitting 7 of 14 from beyond the arc. Steven Roundtree added 21 points and Damen Bell-Holter had 16 points and 11 rebounds. ORU will be the third seed in the tournament and will receive a first-round bye.
UCA's seven SLC victories is the most since it joined the league in 2006-07. The Bears will be making their first appearance in postseason play since moving to NCAA Division I.