Howard stays hot from deep, leads Central Arkansas past Cal
BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) — With his team leading by 20 points early in the second half, Central Arkansas guard Jordan Howard huddled with his teammates during a timeout and challenged them to push the tempo even more.
Coming off a pair of close losses on the road, Howard felt it was important for the Bears to keep the tempo going.
They did that and then some.
Howard scored 26 points, including five 3-pointers, and had six assists, and Central Arkansas beat California 96-69 on Wednesday night.
“We’ve been through a lot throughout these four years rebuilding the program,” Howard said. “We know how close we are to being a great team. We’re just paying attention to the details and the little things that matter.”
Mathieu Kamba added a season-high 23 points and had seven rebounds while DeAndre Jones had 13 points and six assists for the Bears (5-5).
Central Arkansas dropped back-to-back games to Arkansas-Little Rock and San Francisco by a combined eight points before rolling over California (3-6) in the first game between the two schools.
The Bears led 57-37 when Howard issued his challenge. By the next timeout, Central Arkansas had pushed its lead to 77-42.
“I think it was the key to the game,” Central Arkansas coach Russ Pennell said. “One of the toughest things in sports is playing with a big lead. You can either get too conservative or get too loose. The guys just locked in and played basketball. They didn’t worry about anything other than playing the game the right way.”
Howard, the school’s career-leader for 3s, got off to a slow start but made four shots beyond the arc after halftime when he scored 17 points.
By then Central Arkansas was comfortably ahead. The Bears were never threatened after a big run in the first half and led by as many as 35 points midway through the second half.
Don Coleman scored 20 points for California. Marcus Lee added 11 points, five rebounds and four blocks.
The game was sloppy on both sides early before Central Arkansas went on a 24-6 run to take control. Kamba scored seven consecutive points to start the run and Jones made a 3-pointer to cap it, putting Central Arkansas up 29-18.
Jones made another 3-pointer as part of a 10-0 run then converted a mid-court steal into an easy layup that extended it to 45-25.
California couldn’t keep up.
The Golden Bears made only two buckets over the final 11 minutes of the first half and committed a season-high 22 turnovers in the game — one more made field goals.
“Major, major setback,” Cal coach Wyking Jones said. “We have to go back and figure it out. We’re young but we can’t keep using that as an excuse. We’re better than we showed tonight.”
Central Arkansas: The Bears finally got a win over a Pac-12 school after taking UCLA to overtime earlier this season. They were a little sloppy early but never looked back after taking the lead and won going away despite a slow night from Howard, their leading scorer. Tanner Schmit missed the final six minutes of the first half with a bloody nose. He returned to start the second half and made three consecutive shots coming out of the break.
California: Jones and his staff have a lot of work to do with this young team. As has been the case much of the season, the Golden Bears were their own worst enemy. The offense was stagnant most of the game and the defense gave up far too many open looks. With four non-conference games left time is running out to get the problems corrected.
Howard already owns Central Arkansas’ career record for 3-pointers and is nearing a milestone in the Southland Conference as well. Howard is tied with Josh Alexander of Stephen F. Austin with 311 made 3-pointers. Demond Mallett of McNeese State holds the record with 331.
Central Arkansas: Returns home to host Arkansas-Little Rock on Saturday.
California: Travels to play San Diego State on Saturday.