Bears fall to Hatters in overtime

CONWAY — The University of Central Arkansas Bears went cold in overtime Saturday and dropped a 73-62 decision to the Stetson Hatters at the Farris Center.

UCA (8-17, 4-5) made just 1 of 9 from the field in the extra period and was outscored 13-2 by Stetson (14-10, 6-3).UCA sent the game to overtime when sophomore guard Johannes Kirsipuu made a conventional three-point play with 9.5 seconds left and UCA rebounded Stetson’s late miss to end regulation at 60-60.

Ibbe Klintman

The Hatters then got a jumper and a three-pointer from the ASUN’s leading scorer Jalen Blackmon to quickly go up by five in overtime. Blackmon scored nine of his game-high 27 points in the extra period, including four consecutive free throws. Javion Guy-King scored UCA’s lone basket in overtime with 17 seconds left before Stephan Swenson closed it out with two more free throws for the Hatters.

“We had opportunities, we just couldn’t find the net,” said UCA head coach Anthony Boone. “And Stetson did a good job of mixing up their defenses and kind of slowed us down a little bit. That was their plan. We pressed them throughout the game and tried to get into their legs and it helped. I think the pressure in the first half certainly got to them because they didn’t shoot the ball all that great.

“But they are a veteran team, and they have players who have been through this. They stayed poised and did a great job and executed what they wanted to do very well, slowing it down in the second half and swinging it back into how they wanted to play. We didn’t handle that as well as we needed to, and by overtime, we just didn’t have it. We had the looks and couldn’t convert.”

The first half was just the opposite of overtime for the Bears as they had the hot hand early and opened up an 11-point lead and led 31-22 at halftime. UCA held Stetson to 30.8-percent shooting in the opening 20 minutes. Seven different Bears scored in the first half, led by eight points from senior Masai Olowokere. However, the second half went to the Hatters, who shot 50 percent from the field and outscored the Bears 38-29.

Masai Olowokere

The Bears, who saw their lead erased at the 1030 mark of the second half, fought back behind Kirsipuu and freshman Tucker Anderson, along with a big three-pointer by graduate Daniel Sofield. Anderson made a three-pointer with 1:25 left in regulation before Stetson made 1 of 2 at the line twice, setting up Kirsipuu’s three-point play.

“Overall, it was a great, exciting game, ad overtime college game that certainly fun to watch,” said Boone. “Just frustrating that we didn’t finish it off. I was pleased with the effort. Through my frustration, I still expressed that to them. This was so much better effort, especially on the defensive end, than we’ve had in quite some time.”

Anderson led the Bears with 14 points, while Olowokere and Kirsipuu scored 10 each. Junior Elias Cato tied his career high with 12 rebounds. UCA was 8 of 10 at the free-throw line while Stetson finished 17 of 24.

The Bears, who entered Saturday’s game in a five-way tie for fourth place in the AUSN, will be on the road for two conference games next week, both in Jacksonville, Fla. UCA faces Jacksonville at 6 p.m. (CST) Thursday and North Florida at 1 p.m. (CST) Saturday.