UAPB jumper thwarts UCA

UAPB guard Rashad Williams (left) dribbles the ball while guarded by Central Arkansas guard Masai Olowokere (right) during a men's basketball game at the Ferris Center in Conway. (Special to the Commercial/UAPB sports information)

CONWAY -- As the final seconds ticked away, Rashad Williams spun, dropped a defender, then hit a late jumper to give the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff a big in-state road win.

Williams' late shot lifted UAPB past Central Arkansas 85-83 at the Farris Center in Conway.

UAPB (3-1) coach Solomon Bozeman said he wanted the ball in Williams' hands on the final possession.

"He's built for it," Bozeman said. "He's tough. I trust him. He's a tough guy. He wants that pressure. He enjoys the pressure. He enjoys the moment. So there, we just wanted to put it in his hands, let him get an isolation and get to his spot. It was just that simple. Big time players make big-time plays, and I thought he did a great job making plays."

Williams scored a game-high 28 points. Teammates Lonnell Martin Jr. and Conway native Kylen Milton each scored 20.

Elias Cato led UCA with 22 points.

UAPB led 83-79 with under two minutes to play before Cato hit a jumper to cut the lead to 2. Javion Guy-King tied the game with a layup with 41 seconds to play.

The Golden Lions got the ball into the front court and called a timeout with 33.5 seconds to play. Bozeman drew up a play for Williams, and UAPB executed. He made the shot with 11 seconds left, then the Golden Lions got a stop on the other end to close out the win.

Williams said it feels good to know Bozeman trusts him with the ball with the game on the line.

"When I came to UAPB, Coach Solo and his staff, they welcomed me with open arms," Williams said. "They allowed me to be myself. They allowed me to play free. Really, in a player like myself, that's all I ask for, is a fair shot. So, I'm just blessed to have that."

UAPB led most of the first half as the 3-point shots continued to fall as they did in the previous two games. The Golden Lions led by as much as 33-21, but UCA fought back in the final five minutes of the half. The Bears finished the first half on a 15-0 run and led 43-39. UAPB turned the ball over three times during this run.

The Golden Lions came out of the locker room and quickly retook the lead, eventually pushing the lead to 55-47, but the Bears fought back again. Both teams traded the lead back-and-forth throughout the second half, and the game finished with 10 lead changes.

Williams said it was good for the Golden Lions to win a close road game in front of a lively, but hostile, crowd.

"It was good to get one of these games early," Williams said. "See what it feels like. See how it would feel in March with just that pressure, that in-game pressure. The crowd, the atmosphere. It was good early on to get one of those games. Hopefully, we got something to look back on later on in the season."

UAPB was 12 of 25 from 3-point range and 44.6% from the field.