Sugar Bears nearly upset Golden Hurricane

TULSA, Okla. — The Central Arkansas women’s basketball team nearly pulled off the upset of Tulsa Tuesday night, leading midway through the fourth quarter but ultimately falling 60-58. The Sugar Bears got a shot off on the final possession but couldn’t get it to fall through to send the game to overtime.

Photo by Jhude Dizon

Though the Sugar Bears drop to 5-4 on the season, Central Arkansas recovered from a tough first quarter and outplayed Tulsa for the bulk of the remainder of the game. Kinley Fisher scored an efficient 18 points, including 11-straight in the third quarter. Cheyenne Banks was dominant in the paint, scoring 12 points and adding nine rebounds. Elizabeth Abiara was all over the glass, pulling down 10 boards

The teams battled back and forth in the first quarter, with the Golden Hurricane preferring the three-pointer early in the game. Banks went to work early, keeping the Sugar Bears in the game as Tulsa fired from deep, scoring four of the team’s 11 points. And though the Sugar Bears trailed after the first ten minutes, the team was finding quality shots.

Central Arkansas continued to get unlucky, finding clean open looks in the second quarter, but not finding enough success to really cut into the lead. The Sugar Bears were able to trim it to a single possession twice in the frame, but spurts of offense from Tulsa were able to extend the lead. Though seven players scored for Central Arkansas, none were able to score more than three points, leading to a 25 percent shooting mark in the first half. The Sugar Bears went into the locker room down seven, definitely still in the game, but desperately seeking a way out with shots not falling.

Defense, therefore, had to be the way to get back in the game. Locking in and bowing up, the Sugar Bears opened the second half with a new defense that forced the Golden Hurricane into long shots and turnovers, allowing Central Arkansas to start the frame on a 7-1 run in the first three minutes, slicing into the lead with stops and quick offense. Tulsa rebuilt the lead to five before letting Fisher go supernova for two-straight minutes. From the 4:18 mark to the 2:16 mark, Fisher scored 11-straight points, putting home four free throws, two buckets inside the arc and a triple, turning a five-point deficit into a six-point lead in the blink of an eye.

Leah Mafua added a pair at the line to build the lead to eight, the largest of the night for Central Arkansas, with just over 90 seconds left in the frame. Tulsa scored four on a pair of possessions with under a minute to go, but the Sugar Bears were rolling headed into the fourth quarter, leading 44-40 and holding Tulsa to well under its season average for points.

Central Arkansas and Tulsa went at it to start the fourth, matching score for score as the lead hovered around six. Banks scored four early points to keep the lead at eight. But midway through the quarter, Tulsa’s Temira Poindexter, one of the top scorers in the nation, took over, scoring four points at the free throw line to cut the lead to two. A three-pointer with just over four minutes put the home team back in the lead and the Sugar Bears on their heels, and suddenly the Reynolds Center became a hostile environment again. Bree Stephens cut the lead to two with just over a minute left, and the Sugar Bears got a crucial stop with 27 seconds left. On the ensuing possession, a well-executed play resulted in a quality look, but the shot didn’t fall, ending the game in regulation.

Fisher led the team in scoring for the fourth time this season, and Banks scored in double-figures for the second time this season. But the Sugar Bears had one of their roughest days shooting the ball, logging just a 32 percent clip from the field.

With the six-game road swing finished, Central Arkansas returns home to face Central Baptist College on Saturday. Tip-off is set for 1 p.m. at the Farris Center.