As an avid card player, one of Central Arkansas head women's basketball coach Matt Daniel's favorite numbers is 21 - blackjack.
On Saturday, the cards came up the Sugar Bears' way once again as they defeated Sam Houston State 61-56 in front of 2,132 at the Farris Center to hit the 21-win mark for the third consecutive season - becoming the first Southland Conference team to do so since 2002.
"What a phenomenal accomplishment against a really good team," said Daniel, whose team is 21-4 this season after going 21-8 and 21-12 in the previous two seasons. "It's a special thing to be a part of, and I hope we can sustain this run. I thought we did a good job of adjusting and going with the flow of the game and our team was resilient again. We protected the home court and put ourselves in position to stay in the lead in the Southland Conference."
It was the 10th straight win for the Sugar Bears, who keep their stranglehold on first place in the Southland with an 11-1 league mark and stay undefeated in 14 home games this season. The Bearkats, who led the Southland's West Division coming into Saturday's game, fall to 8-4 in the league and 13-10 overall.
UCA junior forward Megan Herbert led all players with 20 points and 13 rebounds, putting together the 61st double-double of her career - breaking the UCA record previously held by Angela Watson, and moving past former UConn star and Women's Basketball Hall of Fame member Rebecca Lobo into a tie for 20th in Division I history. Her 13 rebounds gives her 1,024 for her career, putting her ninth in Southland history.
"Congrats to Megan and her accomplishment," Daniel said. "She's passing some very big names in women's basketball during her career here - Anne Donovan, Cheryl Miller and now Rebecca Lobo. I'm sure glad she's with us."
The Sugar Bears took the lead a minute and a half into the game and never looked back, staying ahead of the Bearkats by double digits for much of the afternoon. After leading eight at halftime, the Sugar Bears built their lead to as many as 18 in the second half before Sam Houston State closed with an 18-6 run over the final seven minutes.
Destinee Rogers was 3-of-3 from 3-point range en route to 14 points, while Nakeia Guiden added 12. Desiree' Rogers had 10 rebounds for UCA. The Sugar Bears also got a combined five points, three rebounds and four blocks in 20 minutes off the bench from Westin Taylor and Courtney Duever.
"They gave us good lifts coming off the bench, and we're going to continue to need those lifts," Daniel said.
UCA limited the Bearkats' Sequeena Thomas - the league's leading rebounder at 14.9 per game in conference play - to less than half her average with seven, and also kept her to four points (more than 10 off her season average) on 1-for-10 shooting. Angela Beadle, who averages 7.1 rebounds per game, had zero.
Britni Martin had 19 points to lead the Bearkats.
"I thought we did a good job on their two big-time rebounders, Thomas and Beadle," Daniel said. "I thought that was a big key."
Another key was at the free throw line, where the Sugar Bears shot 75 percent in the second half and finished 18 for 26 while limiting the Bearkats to just 12 attempts - of which they made just seven (58.3 percent).
The Sugar Bears are home against Nicholls on Wednesday, their next-to-last home game of the season. After the Nicholls contest, UCA will travel to Southeastern Louisiana and UTSA before returning to Conway for the regular season finale against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on March 3.