After starting the season 1-7 and 2-10, Central Arkansas Christian’s Mustangs are on a two-game winning streak.
Matt Hall’s team took a pair of 7-4A conference wins last week to improve to 4-10 and a more-important 2-1 in league play. The Mustangs, who played at Bauxite on Tuesday, will travel to Arkadelphia, the league favorite, on Friday, and Ashdown’s Panthers will visit Mustang Mountain on Tuesday, Jan. 21.
“It was a good week for us,” Hall said of the 39-35 victory at Nashville and a dominating 58-23 decision over Pulaski Robinson. “I feel like we’re starting to play our best basketball of the year. After playing that brutal non-conference schedule, we are as prepared as we could possibly be for the conference season. We couldn’t have done anything else.
“As hard as it was to get our butt kicked, it’s paid off the last couple of games because we’ve won a couple of tough ones.”
The change came just in time, as Hall said Sunday this week would probably be the biggest of the season thus far.
At Nashville, the Mustangs got 14 points from Stephen Flanigan and 13 from Davis Allen to break open a close game. Allen hit a trey and made four free throws late to help ensure the CAC win. Nashville fell to 6-4 and 0-2.
“That one could’ve gone either way,” Hall said. “Davis made a huge 3. You could just see the confidence and relief in their faces after we won that game on the road.”
With the ice coming in last Wednesday, he said he had to cut practice short, and he was concerned about facing Robinson without the full practice quota.
“But Thursday we had by far the best practice of the year, and we turned that around to our best game of the year,” Hall said. “Robinson had beaten Arkansas Baptist, and we turned around and just played very, very well. Our defense was excellent.”
CAC led after the first quarter, 22-6, and at halftime, 40-9.
“It was never a ball game,” Hall said. “In the five games before that, we had scored only in the 30s, but we scored (nearly) 60 against Robinson. You could tell it was just confidence. They came out with confidence and played with it the whole game.”
Joseph Strange led the Mustang offense with 20 points. Flanigan added 11 points and nine rebounds.
Hall said Sunday that Arkadelphia would be athletic with a couple of good shooters.
“They’re going to play hard and fast,” he said of the Badgers. “But we’ve played teams that are very similar to what Arkadelphia will try to do to us, like Maumelle and Morrilton, so no doubt we’ll be prepared to go into that game and play well.
“With two games on the road, this has the potential to be a really big week for us. If we could get those two wins, we would be sitting in a good place. We’re in good shape.”
He praised his team for staying ready through a tough start.
“I’ve been really proud of how our boys have handled themselves, staying positive, trusting me,” he said. “That’s very encouraging for a coach.”