LAKE CHARLES – Domination by each team in separate halves led to a game-deciding, traditional three-point play by Central Arkansas' LaQuentin Miles as the Bears escaped with a 76-75 Southland Conference win over McNeese State here Thursday night.
After McNeese's Ledrick Eackles made one of two free throws to give McNeese a 75-73 lead with 5.7 seconds to play, Miles took the inbound pass, weaved through a couple of defenders, and after being guarded heavily by McNeese's top defender in Kevin Hardy, hit a layup while drawing the foul with 0.5 seconds to play. He hit the free throw for his 17th point of the game and the Bears rolled away with their third consecutive victory over McNeese State – all three in dramatic fashion.
McNeese (6-14, 4-4) trailed by as many as 22 points in the first half and was down 42-25 at the half but opened the second half with a 24-4 run in the first 10 minutes to go up 49-46 with 10:31 to play.
"It's hard when you let a team get up on you big like that in the first half," said head coach Dave Simmons. "I told the guys they did a great job coming back but we made some mental lapses late."
The Cowboys built a 59-51 lead after a Kevin Hardy break away dunk following a Brandon Regis steal that appeared to have McNeese heading towards a win with 6:47 to play. However, UCA sharp-shooter Aubrey Ball kept the Bears (5-14, 2-6) within striking distance with three, three-point goals in a two minute span. Ball finished the game hitting 7 of 9 from long range and a game-high 23 points.
Desharick Guidry, who recorded his second straight double-double with 20 points and 13 rebounds and his big offensive rebounds and putbacks for scores late helped give McNeese a 74-70 lead with 15 seconds to play. Ball came down and fired in his fifth trey of the half nine seconds later to cut it to a 1-point game.
Ledrick Eackles, who led McNeese with 21 points, made one of two free throws with five seconds to play to make it a 75-73 game. That set up Miles to go coast to coast and lay it up right at the buzzer while drawing the foul from Hardy.
"We picked up almost three-quarter court and we shouldn't have," said Simmons of the final possession. "We should've been tighter in our defense and make him score on top of us. When you're up two points, you never let them get a three-point play and that's what we did.
"We locked down on their three-pointers and had Kevin as our best defender on the ball. He just got beat to the basket.
"This one really kicks you," said Simmons. "We had every opportunity to win the game."
McNeese completely dominated the glass by outrebounding the Bears by a 49 to 28 margin and held a 32-6 advantage in second chance points.
The Cowboys shot 38 percent from the field (27 of 71) but was just 10 of 37 for 27 percent in the first half while UCA dropped in 16 of 27 for 59.3 percent in the frame to build a big lead.
The tides turned in the second half as McNeese connected on 50 percent (17 of 34) from the floor while UCA hit just 10 of 28 for 35.7 percent.
The big advantage for the Bears came in the three-point category where they sank 13 of 26 while McNeese hit just 4 of 21 for the game.