Bears defeat Eagles in exhibition game

The UCA men’s basketball team defeated the University of the Ozarks Eagles in an exhibition game Oct. 30 in the Farris Center. (photo courtesy of UCASports)

The UCA men’s basketball team defeated the University of the Ozarks Eagles in an exhibition game Oct. 30 in the Farris Center. 

The Bears and Eagles started the game with a quick tempo. Both teams put an emphasis on attacking the basket, but the Bears made the most of their opportunity, going up 17-6 early in the half. 

The offense quickly stalled for both teams as shots failed to find the bottom of the net, and turnovers contributed to lackluster play by both teams. The Bears began creating less layup attempts, and instead, took more three-point shots which resulted in a lower field-goal percentage. Head coach Russ Pennell believes the Bears failed to keep the Eagles on their heels during the first half of play. 

“We took too many threes in the first half. We didn’t make them have to defend our size so that was a little disappointing,” Pennell said. 

As the game continued, both teams continued their sloppy play that resulted in 10 turnovers for UCA, as well as eight more turnovers for the University of the Ozarks. It seemed that both offenses were out of sync, and at the end of the first half, the game was tied at 34. The Bears shot a less-than-stellar 33% from the field, as well as 27% percent from three, while the Eagles shot 32% percent from the field, and 37% percent from three. Junior center Hayden Koval, as well as the rest of the team, knew they were not performing to their full potential. 

“That wasn’t up to our standard. We know that wasn’t up to par. We need to work on the defensive end as well,” Koval said. “I feel like this was a good wake-up-call for us before we go on to play tougher teams. I think we’ll learn from this one”.

At the start of the second half, the Bears began to find their groove, and seemingly couldn’t miss. UCA scored in bunches as they gained the lead and never looked back. Scrappy play by juior durad DeAndre Jones helped ignite a UCA run as they took a 66-50 lead with 10:25 left in the second-half. 

The Bears’ ball movement improved significantly, which provided more open shots for players to knock down. During the second half, the Bears shot 64% from the field, as well as 42% from three, which were both significant improvements on the first-half statistics. UCA’s defense even turned it up a notch as they forced the Eagles to shoot 21% from the field and 13% from three in the second half.

Everybody on the Bears’ active roster had an opportunity to showcase their skills as coach Pennell took advantage of the team’s depth. 

“We’re a deep team and we’ve got a little bit of everything. We have size, speed, height, and we can shoot the ball really well,” said Pennell. “In a game like this, you want to play everyone and see how different combinations play together. It turned out well for us tonight.”

Koval led all scorers with 18 points, while junior guard Rylan Bergersen racked up 17 points and freshman guard Collin Cooper scored 14. 

The Bears next game will be against the 16th-ranked Baylor Bears Nov. 5 in Waco, Texas, and their next home game will be against Hendrix College Nov. 7 at 7 p.m. in the Farris Center. 

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