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Howard sets another record in SLC victory

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CONWAY -- Even by his lofty standards, University of Central Arkansas' Jordan Howard had an impressive night Wednesday at the Farris Center.

Howard, a senior guard, scored a career-high and UCA Division I-record 41 points, and the Bears (9-9, 3-2) connected on 13 shots from beyond the arc for the second-straight game to run past Incarnate Word, 92-76, in Southland Conference action in front of a crowd of 1,156. Howard was 4-for-9 from 3-point range, 44 percent, and 15-for-17, 88 percent, at the free-throw line to lead the Bears to their second straight conference victory. UCA moved to 6-1 at the Farris Center this season while the Cardinals fall to 5-9 overall and 0-4 in SLC action.

"I was feeling good; I had a good warmup, mentally I was good," said Howard. "I just knew this was a game we needed to win, especially coming off the last win. We had a lot of momentum. Just coming in confident. We had a really good practice; we were moving a lot on offense. So yeah, I thought we came in and executed really well."

Howard now has 336 career 3-pointers and became just the sixth Bear to score at least 40 points in a game and the first since Rodney Dean in 1998. He is UCA's career 3-point leader and the top 3-point shooter in Southland history after last Saturday's 100-91 double-overtime win at Lamar (10-8, 2-3).

The senior led a group of five players with multiple 3-pointers Thursday as UCA made double-digit threes for the ninth time this season. The Bears are the top 3-point shooting team in the conference and did nothing to hurt that ranking Wednesday night.

"In conference, everybody is good," said Howard. "We can have a good half, but they can come out and punch us in the mouth like they did. So we were just preaching composure because last year we were up 17, and they came back and beat us. So we just wanted to make sure we were consistent, and when they punched us in the mouth, we came back and retaliated. So that was good for us to mature and experience something like that because teams are going to go on runs. It's just how we respond to them."

UCA led by as much as 24 points in the opening half and held the Cardinals to just 38 percent shooting. UCA led 53-30 at the break, but they also had a 17-point halftime lead against Incarnate Word last season before losing 81-80 at the Farris Center.

"I told the guys in the locker room, winning a conference game is difficult," said UCA head coach Russ Pennell. "I don't care where you're playing it, who you're playing against. I think the big thing we have to remember in sports is, momentum is a crazy thing. The Falcons last year in the Super Bowl, Georgia on Monday night. All of a sudden it can change.

"And the thing I was most proud of was, we kind of regrouped. I told them at the 12-minute mark when they had cut it to seven, I told them, you have to forget what's happened to this point. You can't say, we've blown a 25-point lead. We have to come back and play from this point on. And I thought from that point on, we were pretty good."

Howard had help from a lot of Bears, including 7-foot freshman center Hayden Koval, who had 15 points, eight rebounds and six blocked shots. Junior Thatch Unruh made 3 of 7 from distance and scored 11 points, while sophomore Aaron Weidenaar had a perfect shooting night, going 4 of 4 overall and 2 of 2 from beyond the arc for 10 points.

"We have so many weapons," Howard said. "And that's what I think, opening the floor up and running this motion (offense), getting a lot of movement has been good for us. It's been spacing the floor, opening the floor. I've even been getting open, and that opens up other guys as well. It's been really good."

The nine overall victories is the most in the Pennell era.

"I'm proud of where our guys have come and what they're doing," he said. "And we feel like we've left a few games out there, but maybe at the end of the year those pay off and you can win those games. But the guys are battling, they're giving us everything they have. And we're proud of them."

UCA hits the road for another two-game road trip on Saturday, taking on the Nicholls Colonels (10-8, 4-1) at 3 p.m. today in Thibodaux, La., and New Orleans (7-9, 4-1) at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

Sports on 01/13/2018

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