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BEARS PULL OUT FIRST ROAD WIN OVER LIONS 73-71

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Seminole Indian:

HAMMOND, La._ The University of Central Arkansas Bears did something Saturday they had never done before and that was win a basketball game at the University Center.

A huge tip-in by sophomore Matthew Mondesir that rolled all around the rim before falling in with just 0.2 seconds left gave the Bears a 73-71 victory over the Southeastern Louisiana Lions and earned them their first Southland Conference victory of the season. UCA is now 6-9 overall and 1-1 in league play.

UCA entered the game with an 0-11 record on the road against the Lions, the defending SLC regular-season champion and the second pick in the preseason poll. The Lions (4-11, 0-2) lost their fourth game in their last five in the final seconds of play.

"We knew this was going to be tough,' said UCA head coach Russ Pennell. "I knew they would make a run. They've got a lot of pride and they've got some good players over there. They hit some threes, and they haven't been shooting it well. But I was proud of our guys. I told them in the locker room, the thing I'm most proud of is, when it got dicey and they got the lead, we didn't flinch, we didn't blink. We went back out there and made a couple of big plays.'

The biggest was Mondesir's tip in that came after 5-foot-11 ophomore guard DeAndre Jones drove the lane and put up a tough shot in traffic. Mondesir tipped the offensive rebound back up and in, leaving the Lions just 0.2 seconds to go the length of the floor. The long inbounds pass was intercepted by UCA's Hayden Koval.

"Boy, Matthew made just a phenomenal hustle play,' said Pennell. "We've been challenging him to do the little things and today he did. Good players make good plays and ours certainly did when we needed them to.'

The Bears turned in a dominating first half defensively, holding the home team to to just six field goals (in 22 attempts) and just 27.3 percent shooting. UCA grabbed a 30-20 halftime lead, in part by forcing 15 SLU turnovers. Senior Thatch Unruh nailed UCA's only three-pointer of the first half in the final seconds to stake the Bears to their largest lead of the half at 30-18 before SLU's Marlain Veal hit two free throws with 0.5 left to set the 10-point halftime margin. UCA shot 43.5 percent and had seven steals, three by Jones, at the break.

The Bears improved to 6-0 this season when leading at halftime, but not before it got interesting in the final 20 minutes. SLU All-Conference senior guard Marlain Veal scored 11 consecutive points at one point and the Lions tied the game at 60-60 with 4:10 to play. The teams traded the lead over final four minutes with a three-point play by freshman Khaleem Bennett giving UCA a 63-62 lead. Veal continued to score for the Lions, both from the field and especially from the free-throw line, finishing with 27 points and hitting 9 of 10 at the line.

SLU's last lead was a 69-67 but Mondesir answered with a layup with 1:10 remaining to tie it again. Senior Thatch Unruh hit a short runner in the lane to put UCA ahead before Brandon Gonzalez tied it with 9.4 seconds on the clock. UCA got the ball to Jones, who drove the lane and missed the jumper in traffic, setting up Mondesir's game winner.

"I thought we set the tone from the beginning tonight,' said Pennell, whose team was coming off an 87-75 loss at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in the SLC opener on Wednesday night. "I thought we really wanted to win this game. I told them if they really want to win, they have to make that happen and they did that tonight.'

Jones led the Bears with 18 points, with Unruh adding 12. Mondesir had 7 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals. Veal finished with 27 points _ 16 in the second half _ surpassing his season average by 13 points. Moses Greenwood and Gonzalez had 15 points apiece for the Lions, who finished with 20 turnovers.

"(The win) gives you a chance to stay relevant in the conference race,' said Pennell. "We always say you need to win your home games and split your road games. So I think getting the split was huge for our psyche. We're going to have to better Wednesday, but we can enjoy today There's going to be a lot of people come in here and not win. So for us to get that is real big for us. They guys were excited. They didn't know UCA had never won down here, so that was a big feather in their cap.'

The Bears, who have only played four home games this season, return to the Farris Center for consecutive SLC games, against Sam Houston State on Wednesday (7 p.m.) and against Lamar on Saturday (3 p.m.).

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