Last Modified: Saturday, March 02, 2013 6:54 PM
This was not the Hollywood ending, unless the movie was something like “The Empire Strikes Back” or “The Usual Suspects.”
Central Arkansas senior Megan Herbert ruined a day of celebration for McNeese State seniors Ashlyn and Caitlyn Baggett with 35 points and 17 rebounds to lead the Sugar Bears to a 77-69 overtime win over the Cowgirls.
“It’s a tough loss,” Ashlyn said. “It sucks that it was on senior night. But our ultimate goal is still to make the NCAA tournament. That’s how we’re going to look at it. Of course, I would have liked to go out at Burton with a win, but we’ve still got games.”
It’s the third consecutive year UCA has knocked off McNeese in an overtime game.
“They always play their hardest games against us,” Caitlyn said. “They play to their strengths and we play to our strengths. It’s always a pretty good game.”
The Cowgirls had a chance to win at the end of regulation, getting the final possession after a Courtney Duever free throw tied the score at 65 with 28.8 seconds left.
Caitlyn Baggett dished the ball to forward Cecilia Okoye for an open 8-foot jumper with 4 seconds left, but the shot bounced off the rim and into Herbert’s hands just before the buzzer.
“Caitlyn is the best point guard in the league,” Donald Williams said. “She looked at me (and) I knew she did not want a timeout, and neither did I. She did what she does best, beating people off the dribble. Caitlyn was in total control, and we still got a good shot. It just didn’t fall. We got the best opportunity we would have had even if we called the timeout.”
The Sugar Bears scored the first six points of overtime before Okoye brought the Cowgirls back with consecutive jumpers.
It looked like fate might be smiling on McNeese when Herbert dribbled the ball out of bounds off her foot against McNeese’s full-court pressure on the following possession.
But Ashlyn Baggett missed a floater for the tie, and the Cowgirls proceeded to miss their final five shots. McNeese shot 22.5 percent from the field (9 of 40) in the second half and overtime after shooting 48.4 percent in the first half.
“Who knows? We just came out cold,” Donald Williams said of the second half. “I honestly think it starts with our defense, though. We put more pressure on our offense, which we haven’t been doing lately. We’ve been getting emotion and energy from our defense, and tonight we flipped it for some reason. We’re usually not successful when we’re forcing and pushing offensively.
“It’s got to be about defensive rebounding so you have less pressure to score.”
UCA’s size advantage was a significant difference in the outcome, with the Sugar Bears outrebounding McNeese 53-38. They crucially turned 16 offensive rebounds into 17 second-chance points.
Duever joined Herbert in double-double land with 13 points and 14 rebounds.
Caitlyn Baggett had a team-high 19 points. Ashlyn and Okoye added 16 each.
NOTE: The game was delayed an hour because UCA’s bus was stuck in traffic due to an accident on Interstate 210.