Sugar Bears face Bellarmine today

CONWAY — Looking to bounce back after a narrow defeat last time out, the Central Arkansas women’s basketball team remains on the road on Thursday, playing Bellarmine at the KFC Yum! Center on Thursday. Tip-off against the Knights is slated for 4 p.m. CT.

The Sugar Bears (8-15, 3-9 ASUN) battled back against the Lions after falling behind early, taking a small lead in the fourth quarter, but couldn’t quite hold on. Siera Carter was unstoppable for most of the second half, scoring a season-high 23 points and corralling nine rebounds. Kierra Prim added 19 and nine, as the two first-year Sugar Bears attacked the Lions with a plethora of drives to the basket and trips to the free throw line. 

Kyjai Miles

Carter has scored ten-plus in four of her last six games, averaging 11.1 points per game over that span. She’s also added two games of nine boards, and had a steal in four of those games. Her rise has come at a crucial time for the Sugar Bears, whose depth has diminished over the course of the season.

Also playing well as of late, Prim has also had four games of double-digit scoring in her last five appearances, averaging 13.4 points per game. The junior forward also has two double-doubles, averaging 8.4 rebounds during that span. The duo’s play has kept the Sugar Bears in several of the last few games, helping pick up a win over Queens last Saturday.

The Sugar Bears defeated Bellarmine in both meetings last season, as the teams met for the first time ever in the 2021-22 season. Starting on the road in Freedom Hall, Central Arkansas held the Knights to nine points in each of the last three quarters, winning 59-41. Adding insult to injury, when Bellarmine made the trip to Conway, Central Arkansas sent them home with another loss, downing the Knights 65-58.

But much like Central Arkansas, this year has seen new faces and season-long struggles for Bellarmine, who entered the week 7-19 overall, with a 3-10 ASUN record. Having dropped their last six games, the Knights currently sit tied for 12th in the league standings.

Last time out, the Knights faced off against Kennesaw State on the road, falling 77-73. The squads were tied going into the fourth quarter, but a 6-0 run with less than two minutes left the Knights unable to keep pace, scoring one last bucket with six seconds left to cut the lead to four. Hayley Harrison led the way for the Knights, scoring 16 points in the loss, with four three-pointers to her ledger.

Freshman Gracie Merkle has been the Knights’ shining star this season, leading the team in many categories as a freshman. The 6-6 center leads Bellarmine with 15.5 points and 10.9 boards per game, also topping the roster with 62 blocks. Merkle leads the entire country in field goal percentage, shooting 71.5 percent from the field. In conference play, her numbers have been even more impressive, putting up 18.2 points and 12.5 rebounds per game shooting 73 percent from the field.

Thursday’s game, already the sixth in the month of February for the Sugar Bears, is set for a 4 p.m. CT tip-off. The game will be streamed on ESPN+, with live stats available here. Fans can also catch the game on the radio, following Steve Owens’ call on 91.3 The Bear