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Bears take on another top SLC squard



ABILENE, TX— After an open date on Wednesday, the University of Central Arkansas Bears continue their run against the Southland Conference’s best Saturday when they take on the Abilene Christian Wildcats at the Teague Special Events Center.

The Bears (3-10, 2-3 SLC) have played the top three teams in the SLC standings consecutively over the past two weeks in Sam Houston State (6-0), Stephen F. Austin (4-0) and Nicholls (5-1). Now they get the fourth-place team in ACU (11-3, 3-1 SEC), a team picked second in the preseason poll.

The Bears dropped a 74-72 decision to Nicholls last Saturday at the Farris Center as the Colonels won their fourth straight league game, and expanded that streak to five games on Wednesday.

In the loss, UCA senior guard Rylan Bergersen scored a game-high 24 points.

Senior forward Jared Chatham recorded his third double-double of the season with 14 points and 18 rebounds, the most boards since Mathieu Kamba had 15 against Arizona State in 2016.

UCA shot 48.5 percent in the first half, earning a 42-40 halftime lead, but then dropped to 33.3 percent (1 of 9 from 3-point range) in the second half.

The Colonels had four players in double figures, led by Kevin Johnson with 17 points, including five of Nicholls’ 10 3-pointers.

ACU lost for the first time in SLC play on Wednesday at Sam Houston in Huntsville, Texas. The Bearkats won 64-57, holding the Wildcats to 37.7 percent shooting overall and a 3 for 19 performance (15.8 percent) from the 3-point line. SHSU also dominated the rebound battle 47-33.

The Bears battled the Wildcats down to the wire last year before losing both matchups. ACU won 70-69 in overtime on Jan. 25 in Conway, and downed the Bears 75-70 on Feb. 29 in Abilene.

In the first matchup, the Wildcats outscored the Bears 8-7 in overtime – including the game-winner with 3.4 seconds left – to earn the victory at the Farris Center. Rylan Bergersen led four Bears in double figures with 16 points (3 of 5 from 3-point range).

Payten Ricks topped ACU with 24 points (5 of 9 from three) as the Wildcats made 11 of 28 (39.3 percent) from beyond the arc. UCA dominated the boards 48-30, including 14 offensive rebounds but had 22 turnovers.

In game two in Abilene, UCA lost despite shooting 54.5 percent from the field and going 15 of 19 (78.9 percent) at the free-throw line.

ACU led 41-26 at the half but UCA outscored the Wildcats 44-34 in the second half, shooting a blistering 65.2 percent and nailing six threes. But the Bears also turned the ball over 27 times, leading to 36 ACU points.

UCA is expected to have another guard available Saturday after playing without senior point guard DeAndre Jones since a knee injury on Jan. 6.

Sophomore Collin Cooper will return to the lineup on a limited basis after off-season surgery. As a true freshman, Cooper played in 27 games with seven starts a year ago.

The Bears and Wildcats will be playing for the 12th time.

ACU leads the overall series 8-3, but two of those UCA victories have come in Abilene since 2017. The game will be played at the Teague Special Events Center on the ACU campus while ACU’s home court at Moody Coliseum undergoes renovation. Game coverage includes The Bear 91.3 with Steve Owens and ESPN+. Tip-off is approximately 3 p.m. following the UCA-ACU women’s game.