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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. _ The University of Central Arkansas Bears competed against reigning NCAA national champion Baylor Bears this young season.

They’ll add another top 10 team to this list on Wednesday night when they face the No. 9/10 Arkansas Razorbacks at 7:00 p.m. at the Bud Walton Arena.

After not playing for 73 years, the Bears and Razorbacks will meet for the second year in a row on Wednesday. Arkansas recently eased a long-standing policy of not playing state schools, and a year ago UCA marked the first men’s basketball program in Arkansas to take on the Razorbacks since 1950.

“It’s very good for the state of Arkansas,” said UCA head coach Anthony Boone, a native of West Helena, Arkansas who drew 4-4, or a draw, with both teams at Ole Miss against Arkansas from 1994 to 1998 it’s still great. There are a lot of people here in Arkansas … and I get it, I was born and raised in Arkansas … who love the Razorbacks and people in the state talk a lot about basketball.

“And that’s the really exciting thing. That’s the really great thing about the University of Arkansas coming up and playing us and playing Little Rock.”

Arkansas, which would advance to Elite 8 last spring, defeated UCA 100-75 last December in front of a Covid-reduced crowd of 4,189 at Bud Walton. The Bears stayed close in the first half, trailing just 41-35 at half time, shooting 46.9 percent out of the field and making five threesomes. But the Razorbacks shot a scorching 60.5 percent out of the field in the second half, beating the Bears 59-40 to claim the win.
UCA had four players in double digits, led by guard Rylan Bergersen and DeAndre Jones with 13 points each. Both student-athletes switched for their extra senior seasons after the season. UCA returns with graduates Jared Chatham (10 points, 10 rebounds) and SK Shittu (11 points, 8 rebounds) from last year’s matchup, two of the double-digit players.

“(The experience) will help some of our guys, but we don’t have many guys who have come back (in this game),” Boone said. We have a couple. One of our young men from Fayetteville (Collin Cooper) couldn’t play because he was injured so I’m sure he’ll be looking forward to this game. ‘

UCA also has a junior transfer guard / striker Darious Hall of Little Rock, who played for the Razorbacks as a freshman before joining DePaul. Hall has started all seven games for the Bears, averaging 9.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.4 assists, despite only playing against VMI for six minutes last week due to back cramps. Hall of Mills University Studies High School was the ASUN Conference Player of the Week after his 19-point and 16-rebound performance in the UCA’s win over Oral Roberts on November 20.

Arkansas is 6-0 in the season, with quality wins last week over Kansas State and Cincinnati in the Classic Hall of Fame in Kansas City, Missouri. The Razorbacks beat Penn 76-60 on Sunday at Bud Walton, where they are 4-0 this year and were 16-1 a year ago.

UCA lost three games at the UNO Classic at the Lakefront Arena last week and lost to New Orleans, VMI and Presbyterian on three consecutive days.

“I think we played well,” said Boone. “We certainly had a few periods of play. And I thought the game we won against ORU was pretty good. But I thought we lost another game where we actually played pretty good basketball for a long time. And because of that we measured it. ‘

UCA will continue a three-game run in the state of Arkansas on Saturday. The Bears will then take a week off for final exams before the Little Rock Trojans play their second home game of the season at the Farris Center on Saturday, December 14th.

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