Sugar Bears dominate Eastern Kentucky

CONWAY — The Sugar Bear basketball team dominated a short-handed Eastern Kentucky team on Saturday, cruising to an 83-49 win over the Colonels in the Farris Center. It marked the 11th home win for the Sugar Bears, who have just one more home game on the schedule.

With the win, the Sugar Bears improved to 18-8 overall, with a solid 10-3 record in Atlantic Sun games. Four Sugar Bears scored in double-digits, led by Randrea Wright’s 16 points. Bree Stephens added 14, Leah Mafua scored 12, and Destine Duckworth dropped 11 off the bench.

Photo by Maddie Malmstrom.

But coupled with the offense was a dynamic defense that shut down the Colonels at every turn. The first-quarter defense allowed, quite literally, zero points from the visitors and held one of ASUN’s best offenses to just 31 percent shooting from the floor and 15 percent from three. Additionally, EKU’s two leading scorers, who normally combine for close to 30 points, combined for just 12 in the Farris Center.

Stephens was electric out of the gates on both ends of the floor, scoring the first eight points of the game by herself, then assisting on Wright’s three-pointer as the Sugar Bears raced out to an 11-0 start with the Australian’s fingerprints all over the game. Eastern Kentucky, on the other hand, could not buy a basket, in large part to swarming defense when the Colonels entered the paint. Tough shots and eight turnovers plagued EKU to its first scoreless quarter in program history.

Offensively in the first, Wright and Stephens combined for 15 of the 17 points, shooting a combined 6-for-8 from the field and hitting all three of their three-pointers. Kinley Fisher came into the game in the first and wreaked havoc on defense, ripping away three steals in just five minutes.

Central Arkansas would continue to apply pressure into the second quarter, suffocating the Colonels and holding them without a point until the 7:13 mark, when a Colonel split a pair of free throws. The scoreless streak lasted 12:47 of gametime, but felt like an eternity to the Maroon bench. EKU would finally hit a field goal at the 5:51 mark of the frame, but by then were trailing by more than 20 points. All seven Sugar Bears that touched the floor in the second quarter scored, as the ball zipped around and found open targets. Central Arkansas shot 54 percent from the field in the frame, adding three three-pointers on 60 percent shooting from distance. At the break, the Sugar Bears were up 19 points.

The Sugar Bears and Colonels continued to battle in the third quarter, once EKU had regained its footing, but the Colonels never really threatened the huge lead. Central Arkansas opened the third quarter with an 8-0 run, stretching the lead to 26, but the Colonels were able to chip it back down to 20 before the end of the quarter. Mafua and Fisher controlled the offense in the third, combining for 12 of the Central Arkansas 17 points, each missing only one shot.

As the fourth quarter got underway, the lead stayed largely around the 20- to 25-point mark, each team trading buckets. But eventually, the momentum of the Sugar Bears carried forward, allowing the home team to crack the 30-point mark with 4:39 remaining in the contest. But as both teams emptied their benches, the Sugar Bears continued to hit shots, running the offense and finding quality looks through execution. Freshman Fatime Seck ended the scoring for the home team with a putback layup with just seconds on the clock, extending the advantage to 36 points. EKU answered with a buzzer-beating layup of its own in response.

Duckworth played an exceptional fourth quarter, scoring seven points and pulling down four rebounds, both game-highs in the final frame. The Sugar Bears racked up 29 points in the quarter, the highest-scoring quarter of the game, on 55 percent shooting from the floor, adding a pair of triples and five free throws. Meanwhile, the defense from the reserves stayed locked in, holding EKU to 28.6 percent shooting in the fourth quarter.

Central Arkansas adds to its hold on the second seed in next month’s ASUN Championship, winning a tenth conference game with three to go. Next on the docket is the final road trip of the season, where the Sugar Bears face Austin Peay and Lipscomb in the Volunteer State.