Josh Goff, Director of Branding and Strategic Communications
MANHATTAN, Kan. – Things looked promising early on for Central Arkansas at Kansas State on Thursday as the Sugar Bears got out to a 7-0 start and led by as many as nine in the first quarter – but after going into the half down by just four, the third quarter did the Sugar Bears in as they were outscored 20-8 by K-State as the Wildcats got some separation en route to a 70-54 victory at Bramlage Coliseum.
“I’m really pleased with our effort – we were just outmatched,” said Central Arkansas head coach Sandra Rushing. “I’m proud, I’m happy with this – not with the score, but with the way we fought. We missed so many assignments tonight, but we were going hard. I’m really happy with the way we came out, and we had certain units that played well, but we made a lot of mental mistakes and we’ve got to clean that up.”
The Sugar Bears (5-5) led the Wildcats (8-3) 13-10 after the first quarter, and were ahead or tied for more than 14 minutes in the first half before K-State took the lead for good with just under five minutes to go in the second quarter, leading by as many as six before taking a four-point cushion into the locker room at the break.
Central Arkansas found itself down just two with 6:30 to go in the third, but K-State closed out the period on a 16-2 run – holding the Sugar Bears to only a pair of Alana Canady free throws over the duration of the quarter as the Wildcats extended their lead to 16.
The Wildcats’ lead swelled to 22 late in the fourth quarter, but the Sugar Bears closed by outscoring K-State 11-5 to trim the final margin to 16 as each team scored 24 in the final frame.
The Sugar Bears shot 37.3 percent from the field for the game, including a fourth quarter in which they were 7 of 11 (63.6 percent); and were 5 of 10 from 3-point range – making them 13-for-22 (59.1 percent) over the last two games after starting the year hitting just 18.2 percent in their first eight games.
They also enjoyed their best night of the season at the free throw line, knocking down 11 of 12 (91.7 percent) – including 8-of-8 in the fourth quarter.
“We shot 50 percent from the 3 and over 90 percent at the free throw line – there were a lot of positive things tonight,” Rushing said. “One positive thing is that our young kids have gained so much experience. This was a great learning experience for us. We had people get frustrated, and we have to learn how to handle adversity. My frustration tonight came from having to discipline people on the bench for not listening or not looking. We’ve got to focus in on what we have to do. Energy is contagious and positive attitudes are contagious. That’s what we’re looking for.”
Freshman Alana Canady led Central Arkansas in scoring with 14 points, going 6-for-6 from the free throw line. Taylor Sells had her second consecutive game in double figures, scoring 12 and committing just one turnover in 31 minutes. Kamry Orr added 9 points, a game-high 9 rebounds, and a pair of steals. Alanie Fisher had 8 points in 15 minutes off the bench, and Maddie Goodner added 5 points and had 3 assists.
“I thought [Canady] got a lot of good experience tonight, but she showed she was a freshman at times,” Rushing said. “I thought Sells did a great job – she pushed the basketball and handled it pretty well. I know she gets tired, but she’s going to have to be able too play 40 minutes for us, and Kamry Orr is going to have to play 40 minutes. Alanie Fisher had some productivity at the end of the game, but we needed more. She got zero rebounds – not one of her best games. For us to win big games, we’ve got to have everybody contributing.”
The Wildcats were led by 17 points from Rachel Ranks, with Peyton Williams getting 12 and Jasauen Beard adding 10. The win was K-State’s second of the season over a Southland team, having beaten league preseason favorite Lamar 73-55 on Dec. 5.
The Sugar Bears now turn their attention to Southland play, as the 18-game conference slate begins on Dec. 31 in the Farris Center against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.
“We don’t play again until the 31st – that’s a long time not to play a game, but we definitely need this break,” Rushing said. “We’ll practice twice, then give them a few days off, then get back to work.We still have a ways to – but they want to win. They’re trying and I appreciate that.”