Bears finish seventh in conference, take underdog role in tournament

Senior guard Thatch Unruh sends a floater over two Northwestern State defenders March 9 in Natchitoches, La. This win clinched UCA’s third consecutive trip to the conference tournament.

photo courtesy of UCASports

The UCA men’s basketball team (13-18, 8-10 SLC) went 2-0 last week as they beat both Sam Houston State University and Northwestern State University on March 6 and 9, earning the seventh seed in the Southland Conference Tournament.

The Bears started off their week traveling to Huntsville, Texas coming out with a 91-87 victory.

The game was close throughout, but the Bears were behind for much of the first half of play. With 2 minutes and three seconds  on the clock in the first half, sophomore forward Jared Chatham made a free throw to put the Bears up 39-38 before the break.

The Bears kept Sam Houston scoreless for the rest of the half and went into halftime with a 46-38 lead.

The lead was built beyond the arc as the Bears hit nine 3-point shots in the first half. Sophomore center Hayden Koval lead the Bears with 14 points while senior guard Thatch Unruh and sophomore guard DeAndre Jones both scored 9 in the opening frame.

When the Bears and the Bearkats came back from the halftime break, the two teams continued to score back-and-forth just as they did in the first half.

The Bears grew a double digit lead in the second half of play, but the Bearkats wouldn’t surrender and eventually took the lead with 8:29 of play remaining.

The Bears offense proved to be too much in the end as they scored 20 points in the last 7:35 of play to win the game 91-87.

Jones led the Bears in scoring with 22 points, while Koval and Chatham both chipped in 16 points.

The Bears shot 53 percent from the field and 48 percent from the 3-point line.

Freshman guard Zach Nutall scored 18 points for the Bearkats off the bench, while senior guard Cameron Delaney scored 17 points.

The Bearkats shot 52 percent from the field and 35 percent from the 3-point line during the game.

On March 9, the Bears traveled to Natchitoches, La. where they faced the Northwestern State University Demons in another conference battle.

The Bears started off on a role as they hit seven first-half 3-pointers to earn them a 41-21 lead going into halftime.

Unruh led the Bears in scoring during the first half of play with 11 points, while Koval chipped in 10 points.

The second half started off cold for the Bears, as they didn’t score a point in the first 7:41 of play. At that point, the score was 43-36 and the Demons trimmed the lead down to seven points.

That seemed to be enough for the Bears as they held off the Demons second half comeback and came out with a 70-63 victory. Unruh led both teams in total scoring to end the game with 30 points, while Koval finished with 12 points for the Bears.

As a team the Bears shot 38 percent from the field and 41 percent from the 3-point line. The Bears seem to have found their groove at the right time as the team is now headed to the Southland Conference Tournament.

“We just have to continue to play for each other and play hard from start to finish every game. I honestly feel like we’re the most talented team in this conference, and we have to continue to play like it,” Chatham said.

For the Demons, senior center Ishmael Lane scored 18 points and grabbed 19 rebounds.

The Bears will look to extend their season against Texas A&M Corpus Christi in the SLC tournament on March 6  Katy, Texas.


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