Bears win a back-and-forth contest against the Trojans

UCA guard Daniel Sofield (21) drives the ball around UALR forward Jaylen Crocker-Johnson (5) during the first half Thursday at the Farris Center in Conway.
(Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Staci Vandagriff)
UCA guard Daniel Sofield (21) drives the ball around UALR forward Jaylen Crocker-Johnson (5) during the first half Thursday at the Farris Center in Conway. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Staci Vandagriff)

Central Arkansas fought its way back from a nine-point second-half deficit to pull out its second win of the season, a 75-71 triumph over rival Arkansas-Little Rock, on Thursday night at the Farris Center in Conway.

Daniel Sofield scored 12 of his 18 points in the second half to lead the UCA comeback effort. Tucker Anderson scored 13 points and Masai Olowokere scored 10 points in the win for the Bears.

"Our guys certainly were up for it," UCA Coach Anthony Boone said following the contest. "We didn't say much about it being a rivalry game and we didn't have to because they understand how big it is. But more than that, it was a big deal because Little Rock has been playing really well."

With the loss, UALR (4-5) had its three-game winning streak ended. Poor shooting and missed opportunities around the rim cost the Trojans in the end. UALR won the rebounding battle 47-32, but were not able to take advantage of the extra opportunities to score.

"We had a lot of defensive breakdowns and we missed a lot of shots at the rim," UALR Coach Darrell Walker said. "A lot of layups. When we go back and watch the game it's going to be double figure layups missed at the rim. Give UCA some credit, they're a pretty good basketball team that has been on the road."

Jamir Chaplin scored a game-high 21 points for the Trojans. Cougar Downing and Jaylen Crocker-Johnson each scored 13 points and Bradley Douglas added 10 points. Crocker-Johnson also grabbed a career-high 15 rebounds. UALR shot just 38.5% from the field and 29.2% from behind the arc.

UCA (2-9) started strong and held the lead most of the first half with a balanced attack led by Anderson, who scored eight points before the break. The Bears opened up a 27-19 advantage following a three-pointer from Olowokere with 3:59 left in the opening half.

UALR finished the first half with a burst, closing with a 12-3 run in the final 3:36 to take a 31-30 lead into halftime. Chaplin and Downing each had eight points at the break.

The intensity picked up as the game moved into the second half. UALR built a six point lead at 43-37 as Downing knocked down a three-pointer with 14:45 left. The Trojans took a 52-43 lead before the Bears responded with a 9-0 run in less than 2 minutes to tie the game at 52-52 with 9:27 remaining.

UCA regained the lead for the first time in the second half on a made three-pointer from Sofield with 6:15 to go. The teams continued to exchange leads down the stretch, with the Trojans holding a 64-63 advantage at the under-four media timeout.

With the game deadlocked at 68-68 with 1:32 left, Chaplin was called for a loose ball foul and Anderson converted on a pair of free throws to give the lead back to the Bears at 70-68. UALR then took a timeout to draw up a play.

DeAntoni Gordon was fouled by Olowokere after the timeout and calmly knocked down his two free throws to once again knot the game up at 70-70 with just over a minute left.

Following a timeout of its own, UCA ran a back-cut play and Elias Cato found Sofield alone underneath the basket for a layup for another two-point lead.

"Daniel [Sofield] did what we recruited him to do," Boone said. "He made some great plays, made some great shots and made some great reads when they closed out on him too strongly. He found his stroke. He came up really big for us."

Downing missed a layup the next possession and the Bears were able to secure the rebound. Javion Guy-King knocked down a pair of free throws to extend the UCA lead to 74-70 with 14 seconds left.

Gordon was fouled with 2.9 seconds on the clock and made the first free throw to cut the deficit to 74-71. He missed the second free throw and Ubong Abasi Etim collected the rebound for the Bears and was fouled with 1.7 to go.

Etim made the second of two free throws to secure the win.

  photo  University of Central Arkansas guard Daniel Sofield (back) looks to make a pass Thursday while being defended by UALR guard Jaylen Crocker-Johnson (5) during the Bears’ 75-71 victory over the Trojans at the Farris Center in Conway. Sofield led the Bears with 18 points. More photos at (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Staci Vandagriff)

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