CONWAY — Despite a hot start, the University of Central Arkansas Bears could not pull off their second upset in three days Monday afternoon as the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks pulled away for a 79-66 victory in Southland Conference action at the Farris Center.
UCA, coming off an 84-82 upset of league-leader Abilene Christian on Saturday on the same floor, carried that momentum into the start of Monday’s makeup game, jumping out to a 10-2 lead in the opening three minutes and going 8 of 8 from the field to start the game. UCA held that advantage up to the 6:00 mark when the Lumberjacks (15-4, 11-2) finally tied the game at 26-26. UCA’s Jared Chatham answered with an inside basket and a conventional three-pointer to give UCA the lead again before the Lumberjacks scored the final four points of the half at the free-throw line to take a 35-32 lead to the locker room.
Chatham, a senior forward from Los Angeles, had 11 of his team-high 18 points in the opening half. Chatham has averaged 19.6 points and 9.6 rebounds over the past three games, including a pair of double-doubles.
“We didn’t get some loose balls early in the game. Even when we got up, there were a couple of loose balls we should have gotten but we didn’t,” said UCA head coach Anthony Boone. “We just didn’t seem to have the same fire coming out (today), even though we hit some shots. But the guys still battled, and I was glad for that. And even though we didn’t have our best game today, we still had our opportunities there going down the stretch.”
SFA, the SLC preseason favorite who was coming off an upset loss to Lamar on Saturday, quickly pushed its lead to eight points in the first six minutes of the second half. UCA responded with three-pointers from Eddy Kayouloud and Rylan Bergersen to keep the Bears within 51-47 with 12:00 remaining. The Bears would get as close as six points, 69-63, on Jaxson Baker’s three-pointer with 2:50 left to play but the Lumberjacks closed out the win at the free throw line.
The Bears limited SFA’s 6-foot-7, 260-pound All-SLC center Gavin Kensmil to 14 points. Cameron Johnson and Roti Ware scored 18 apiece for the Lumberjacks, who had five players in double figures. SFA shot 52.7 percent for the game after the slow start.
Junior forward Eddy Kayouloud added 16 points and senior guard Rylan Bergersen had 12 for the Bears.
“Kensmil is a load and he’s tough to deal with,” said Boone. “We battled as much as we could, and he still didn’t have a great percentage. He hit half of his shots, which is not bad considering he got everything right around the basket. But just too much for us. We just couldn’t keep him from catching it.”
UCA continues its three-game homestand on Wednesday with a 7 p.m. matchup with Southeastern Louisiana at the Farris Center. The regular-season finale is set for 1 p.m. Saturday at Northwestern State in Natchitoches, La. The SLC announced Monday that the SLC Tournament field will expand from eight teams to 10 next week when it begins Tuesday at the Merrell Center in Katy, Texas.
“(SLU) is a tough team,: Boone said. “We never know what we’re going to get with them. No shot is bad for them, and that’s always dangerous because they can get it going and then everything is going in. It’s going to be tough, and we’re going to have to come out really, really strong against them. We’re going to have to do a lot better job than we did last time at their place, even though we had our chances at the end of that game. And I think we’re going to be up for it.”