McNeese scored the game’s first seven points but Central Arkansas put together a 16-0 run at the end of the second quarter and beginning of the third, then held off a late Cowgirl rally to pull out a 51-45 Southland Conference win on Wednesday night in Burton Coliseum.
UCA’s Taylor Baudin scored a career-high 30 points and came within one board with 12 for the game as the Sugar Bears (17-7, 10-3) dominated the glass with 47 total rebounds, 21 of those on the offensive end, leading to 22 second chance points.
“Our effort was there,” said head coach Kacie Cryer. “We needed to make some shots there late in the fourth quarter and we just couldn’t get them to go in.”
UCA built its lead to 10 points three different times in the third quarter but the Cowgirls responded well after a three-pointer by Merdedes Rogers then a layup from Keara Hudnall to cut the gap to 39-34 with 2:27 to play in the quarter.
McNeese (11-13, 7-6) trailed by six at the end of the quarter and pulled to within two points in the fourth quarter at 42-40 after a jumper by Dede Sheppard with 6:40 to play. But despite the Sugar Bears going nearly three minutes without a point, the Cowgirls were not able to capitalize on the the drought as they went over six minutes scoreless and didn’t score another field goal until a 3 by Caitlin Davis with 22 seconds to play to cut the gap to 48-45.
UCA’s Alanie Fisher hit 1 of 2 free throws to make it 49-45 with 17 seconds to play and after a Rogers missed layup, Baudoin closed things out with two freebies with seven ticks left to make it 51-45.
Rogers led the Cowgirls with 11 points and nine rebounds while Davis added 10 points with nine assists. Baudoin was the only UCA player to score in double-digits as the Sugar Bears had all they needed with 32 points in the paint while going 1 for 20 from outside the arc.
The Cowgirls jumped out to a 7-0 lead and built as much as a nine-point advantage several times in the first quarter, and led 18-12 at the break despite UCA’s Taylor Baudoin scoring all of the Sugar Bears’ 12 points in the frame with five offensive rebounds.
McNeese led the entire first half and held a 25-24 advantage at the break. The Cowgirls went up 23-15 following a Rogers jumper with 5:58 to play but the Sugar Bears clawed back and outscored the Cowgirls 9-2 the remaining time as a jumper by Kamry Orr pulled UCA to within one.
The Cowgirls will return to action on Saturday when they visit UNO in the first game of a doubleheader beginning at 2 p.m.
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