CONWAY, Ark. -- Central Arkansas ranks just a notch off the NCAA lead in scoring defense, which explained a fair share of Northwestern State’s struggles Saturday in a season-ending 59-39 Southland Conference women’s basketball loss.
NSU, finishing 7-22 overall and 2-16 in an injury-riddled season, managed only 15 points in the first half when it didn’t score for 9:40 bridging the first and second quarters as UCA grabbed a double-digit lead to stay.
UCA (21-8, 14-4) heads into next week’s Southland Tournament as the No. 3 seed, while the Lady Demons didn’t qualify for the eight-team field for the first time in seven seasons.
Averaging 20 turnovers a game, NSU already had 14 by halftime as the Sugar Bears mounted a suffocating, physical defense.
“UCA does a great job defensively. That’s well established and give them credit for a lot of our problems today,” said second-year Lady Demons coach Jordan Dupuy. “But we only got up 33 shots. We had 24 turnovers and too many of them were not due to great defense. Turnovers have been a big problem for us all season.”
Gabby Bell scored a team-high 10 points, hitting 3-of-4 on 3-pointers, for an NSU squad that was 6-for-14 behind the arc but only 6-of-21 inside it. NSU shot 36 percent overall while making all nine of its free throws, five in the fourth period.
UCA got 17 points by Taylor Baudoin and 15 points from Kamry Orr, with an overall 40 percent accuracy rate helped by sinking 17-of-24 at the free throw line. The Sugar Bears doubled up the visitors 16-8 in the first period, led 29-15 at the break and the Lady Demons never got closer afterward.
“It’s been a frustrating season for us fighting injury after injury, and that never allowed us to develop any consistency because there were different players unavailable week in and week out,” said Dupuy.
“The benefit of it is that the ones who were healthy got to play more, which will help us next year, considering Tia Youngblood is our only senior. We really appreciate her efforts for four years in this program, and also, how our fans have hung with us and been so encouraging. That has been really special for this team and these coaches.”
The Lady Demons played significant portions of the season without their four top performers, playing nearly all year without preseason All-Southland forward Cheyenne Brown due to a knee injury and related problems. Dupuy and his program began looking forward shortly after Saturday’s final buzzer.
“We end our season today and we already are working very hard on next year,” he said. “While we’re doing everything we can to get better, through offseason and recruiting work, we also will spend a lot of time this spring supporting baseball, softball, tennis and track and field. We are one big family here and it’s going to be fun watching those sports this spring.”