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Sugar Bears’ depth costly in home loss

by Sam Lane | January 20, 2023 at 2:18 a.m.

CONWAY -- The University of Central Arkansas women's basketball team looked to be on the cusp of a comeback when the third quarter closed Thursday night at the Farris Center.

The Sugar Bears were down four points to Austin Peay, having trailed by nine at halftime, and had just scored their highest points in a quarter (17) against the Governors. But by the time the final buzzer sounded, Austin Peay had closed out a 64-53 victory.

With absences from suspension and injury, UCA (6-11, 1-5 ASUN) started Thursday's contest with eight players -- one of which being a visibly-hobbled Kayla Mitchell.

Assistant coach Tiffany Phillips pointed to the lack of bodies for the Sugar Bears as one reason they were unable to keep within striking distance of Austin Peay (10-6, 5-1).

"We're fighting and we run out of gas," Phillips said. "You got Randrea Wright who played 39 minutes, she scored 16 points and when she's on the ball, she's worn out."

Wright and Kinley Fisher tied for team-high honors with 16 points. Fisher led that third-quarter charge for UCA, scoring seven points during that stretch, including a pair of three-pointers.

"Kinley was good tonight," Phillips said. "I think [Fisher and Wright] are doing everything that they can.

Fisher also played 39 minutes Thursday night, making all four of UCA's shots from deep.

Austin Peay was able to lean on its bench for scoring, something UCA didn't get. The Governors outscored the Bears 22-4 from the bench, including a game-high 18 points from 6-foot-1 forward Shamarre Hale.

Thanks in part to Hale's play, Austin Peay dominated the glass on both ends. The Governors had 37 rebounds, including 11 offensive, to the Sugar Bears' 17.

Combined the second and fourth quarters where Austin Peay outscored UCA 40-26, the Governors went 18-of-23 from the free-throw line but were held to 2 of 2 for the other two quarters.

Thursday was UCA's third loss in a row and ninth in the last 11 games. Next up, UCA will host Lipscomb (11-7, 5-1) on Saturday.

"It doesn't get any easier from here," Phillips said. "[We've] just got to continue to try and fight it and keep this team positive, keep them motivated. We got all these punches, we're gonna have to start punching back a little bit."

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