CONWAY, Ark. (UCA) - With a little over 16 minutes remaining in Saturday's game with Stephen F. Austin, Central Arkansas clung to a one-point lead over the Ladyjacks.
And then Courtney Duever took over.
The senior center scored 17 of her game-high 25 points in a 10-minute span as the Sugar Bears went on a 29-2 run en route to an easy 65-42 win over the Ladyjacks in the Farris Center to stay atop the Southland Conference standings. Duever alone outscored SFA in the second half as the Ladyjacks scored just 14, with five coming in the final minute.
"I'm very pleased with our performance today," said UCA head coach Sandra Rushing. "We just beat a very good, very athletic team. I thought our defense was exceptional and won the game for us today. We did a very, very good job in the second half, and I thought Courtney came out and put on a show. Brittany Agee did a tremendous job on defense, Brianna Mullins was huge, Micah Rice didn't shoot the ball well but did a lot of other things to help us - she had five assists and really settled us down. We got a lot of contributions across the board today and it was a great win."
The Sugar Bears (12-6, 6-1 Southland) held the Ladyjacks (10-9, 4-3) to 27 points below their season average, and limited SFA to just five field goals and 14 points in the second half - the lowest total allowed by the Sugar Bears in a half this season. It was their largest margin of victory in a Southland game since crushing Northwestern State 84-43 on Jan. 14, 2012.
The 14 second-half points was the 'Jacks lowest-scoring half of the season by eight points, and their 42 total points gives them their lowest-scoring game of the season by 10 points with the previous low being 52 against TCU and Kent State. The 23-point margin was also SFA's second-most lopsided loss of the season behind only a 28-point loss to LSU in the season opener.
"Our defense was really solid," Rushing said. "They do a great job in transition, and we did a good job of covering that holding them to only two points in transition. And we held them to eight points in the paint in the second half. Those are the types of things we've got to do. We've got to continue to build on this performance because there's a lot of basketball ahead of us. We're not going to be complacent. We've got a big week ahead of us with trips to McNeese and Nicholls, and we're going to need that kind of defense against two good, solid teams like those."
Duever added a game-high 11 rebounds to go with her 25 points to for her third straight double-double and eighth of the season. In the two wins this week she averaged 22 points and 10.5 rebounds.
Freshman guard Maggie Proffitt added 13 points, with 11 coming in the first half as she connected on 3 of 4 3-point attempts to bring her team-leading total to 38. Fellow freshman Brianna Mullins, who had scored 48 points in the Sugar Bears' previous two games, was held to nine on Saturday but contributed a season-high eight rebounds and six assists. Jameka Watkins added seven points and four assists, and Brittany Agee came off the bench to add five points and six rebounds in 27 minutes.
SFA was led by Porsha Roberts' 13 points, seven rebounds and three blocks. Taylor Ross added 11 points for the 'Jacks, who fall to the Sugar Bears for the third straight time in the Farris Center. The Sugar Bears are now 8-3 at home this season, including 4-0 in conference games.
"This was a big week for us," Rushing said. "I want to thank our crowd, our cheerleaders, dance team, band and everybody else who make this such a good environment for us here at home. It's really great to be playing at home and see everybody cheering."
The Sugar Bears wrap up a week in which they committed an average of only nine turnovers per game, well below their average of 15.3. They also won the rebounding battle 37-32 over an SFA team that entered the game with a +5.5 rebound margin.
UCA will travel to McNeese State and Nicholls next week before returning home the following week to face Southeastern Louisiana and Southland newcomer New Orleans.