NATCHITOCHES, La. — The University of Central Arkansas needed a win on Saturday to prolong its season but the shorthanded Bears could not pull it off as the Northwestern State Demons won 79-70 in the Southland Conference regular-season finale at Prather Coliseum.
The Bears, needing to win to advance to next week’s SLC Tournament, instead closed their injury-plagued season with a 5-19 overall mark and a 4-12 record in SLC play. UCA played just seven players in the finale, with six of them playing at least 23 minutes.
UCA trailed 40-31 at halftime after shooting just 38.7 percent from the field and going 3 of 10 from three-point range. The Demons (10-17, 9-7) shot 48.4 percent overall in the opening 20 minutes, but more importantly, connected on eight (of 13) from beyond the arc to gain the nine-point lead.
The Bears played the Demons even, 39-39, in the second half but Northwestern State got 40 points from its bench and UCA only 23 points. The Demons played 11 players and had two in double figures, led by guard Trenton Massner with 20, going 3 for 6 from three-point range.
UCA had five of its seven players in double figures, led by junior Eddy Kayouloud with a double-double of 16 points and 11 rebounds. Sophomore Jaxson Baker came off the bench to make four threes and finish with 12 points, 3 rebounds and 3 steals. Senior guard Rylan Bergersen scored 11 points and dished out a career-high 11 assists in a team-high 37 minutes of action.
Senior Jared Chatham added 11 points and sophomore Collin Cooper went 3 of 6 from beyond the arc and contributed 11 points off the bench. The Bears finished with a season-low nine turnovers and made 11 three-pointers, its second consecutive game with at least 10 threes.
The Bears, who lost All-SLC point guard DeAndre Jones to a season-ending knee injury in the second conference game of the season on Jan. 6, were forced to use nine different starting lineups during a season shortened to just 24 games by the pandemic. Still, the Bears won two of their previous three games heading into Saturday’s finale to keep their hopes alive for a tournament berth.