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FTs with 0.2 seconds remaining lift UCA

by Adam Cole | January 16, 2022 at 2:36 a.m.

ASUN MEN

UCA 89, North Alabama 88, OT

CONWAY -- The odds didn't seem to matter much for the University of Central Arkansas men's basketball team in Saturday's game against North Alabama.

It didn't matter that the Bears finished the first half down 10 points, as they closed that gap to force overtime. It didn't matter that Darious Hall, Camren Hunter and Jared Chatham -- who combined for two-thirds of UCA's points -- all fouled out by the 3:37 mark of overtime, either.

And it didn't matter that the Bears had 1.7 seconds at the end of the extra period to get up the court and find the basket to avoid a loss.

UCA guard Collin Cooper threw up a heave from halfcourt with time winding down. Cooper's shot didn't go in, but he drew a foul from North Alabama's Detalian Brown -- and three free-throw attempts -- with 0.2 left.

Cooper hit two of his three attempts, giving the Bears an 89-88 victory against the Lions to cap a considerable comeback at the Farris Center.

"That's our identity, I feel like -- toughness and getting things done," Cooper said. "We knew we had to do something with our some of our best players out of the game, and we had to make something happen."

Central Arkansas (6-11, 3-1 ASUN) was 37.5% from the field, with more turnovers (13) than assists (12) and was called for 29 personal fouls. The hole the Bears had dug after one half appeared dire enough to be game-ending.

UCA trailed 39-29 at halftime, shooting 31% and its largest lead of the day, 22-15, had appeared for a glimpse halfway through the half.

"We let the game get too slow, and we didn't crash the offensive glass hard enough," UCA Coach Anthony Boone said. "We challenged the guys to do that a little bit better, to play faster and hit the offensive glass, and they did just that."

The Bears grabbed seven of their 12 offensive rebounds in the second half and generating 5 of their 11 second-chance points. Although, the biggest shift in UCA's play after halftime may have come at the free-throw line.

After a first half that saw UCA called for 13 personal fouls, and North Alabama (8-9, 1-3) going 13 of 16 at the line, the Bears finished the second half with 10 fouls, and they drew 15, which resulted in 15 of UCA's 47 second-half points.

"We did say to attack inside, because we felt like we had a size advantage, especially with our guards," Boone said. "We tried to do it a little bit in the first half, and then we went away from trying to do it, and we just got back to doing it."

Boone noted guard and Bryant product Camren Hunter's success inside in the second half. Hunter, along with Hall, led the way for the Bears.

Hall had a game-high 25 points, as well as 13 rebounds, for his sixth double-double this season. Hunter finished with a career-high 21 points, as well as five rebounds. Chatham finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds.

Despite their success, all three got into early foul trouble that led to late absences. Chatham was called for his final foul with 1:50 left in regulation, and Hunter, who provided six points and a steal in the final two minutes of regulation, fouled out with 18 seconds left in the second half. While Hall hung on until overtime, his fifth foul at the 3:37 mark of the extra period meant the Bears were without three of their most effective scorers to that point.

"It certainly didn't look good for us," Boone said. "But our other guys need the opportunity to step up."

Eddy Kayouloud and Masai Olowokere both provided game-tying buckets in overtime. Ibbe Klintman had a crucial steal, and Cooper did most of his damage in overtime, scoring eight of his 14 points, as well as drawing the late foul for the game-tying and game-winning free throws.

"The way it happened, I was far away from the basket, I turned and I'm thinking I have to shoot, but I see [Brown] running straight at me," Cooper said in reference to his last-second shot attempt. "So I just go straight up into my shot, and I get hit."

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