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ABILENE, Texas – The fourth-best scoring defense in the nation bottled up the University of Central Arkansas Bears on Saturday as Abilene Christian rolled to a 93-58 victory in Southland Conference action at the Teague Special Events Center.

UCA (3-11, 2-4) was held to just 38.9-percent shooting and turned the ball over 25 times. ACU (12-3, 4-1) capitalized with 36 points off those miscues and turned a 14-point halftime lead into a blowout in the second half. The Wildcats were red-hot to open the second half, outscoring the Bears 11-3 in the first four minutes to put the game out of reach.

ACU, the second pick in the SLC preseason poll, entered the game allowing just 57.8 points per game and held UCA to that exact number. The Bears average 72.5 points in their previous 13 games, and 77 points in the past three. ACU, coming off its first SLC loss on Wednesday night at Sam Houston, improved to 8-0 at home this season. The Bears lost both matchups with the Wildcats last year but both were close, one in overtime and one by five points.

“The funny thing about it is, I felt as good about us going into this game than I have about any of our conference games because of the last couple of days of practice,’ said UCA head coach Anthony Boone. “But we just couldn’t put it into play when we got out here. We had moments in the first half,  but it was just a couple of brief moments. And Abilene certainly put it together. They were hungry after that last loss and they were determined to make us pay for it.’

UCA shot just 27.6 percent from the field and turned the ball over 11 times in the first half. The Bears kept it close early but found themselves down by 17 points at 35-18 with 3:30 left in the half. UCA got a 7-0 run, aided by a four-point play from sophomore Khaleem Bennett on his first three-pointer of the season and the additional free throw with 2:00 left.

However, the Wildcats, who never trailed in the game, scored twice in the final 1:30 to grab a 39-25 halftime lead.

“In the first half, we had a number of opportunities around the basket that we just didn’t finish, we just didn’t go strong enough,’ said Boone. “And again, I would not have guessed that after the last couple of days of practice. I told them at halftime and then again after the game that we looked like a different team. And I don’t know what happened to change it from yesterday to today, but we have to fix it.’

ACU shot a blistering 61.3 percent from the field in the second half and made 9 of its 12 three-pointers after halftime.

“Their main way  (of scoring) is in the paint, but they were certainly knocking down some shots in the second half. And that made it tough,’ said Boone. “We wanted to stop them from getting the shots around the basket, getting to the line as much, but they just flipped the script on us.’

ACU had four players in double figures and finished with just 12 turnovers. And despite the 12 three-pointers, they still outscored the Bears 44-24 in the paint.

UCA sophomore Collin Cooper, recovering from off-season surgery, returned to the court for the Bears for the first time since Feb. 22, 2020. Cooper, from Fayetteville, finished with 12 points in 26 minutes of action. He was forced into early action when Bergersen, UCA’s leading scorer on the season, picked up two fouls in the opening 2:30. Bennett added 11 points as the only other UCA player in double figures.

“He’s slowly made his way back, and he still has some adjusting to do, some acclimating to do,’ said Boone. “But he’s going to give us a nice little spark here when he’s fully back.’