Sam Houston (11-15, 5-7) got 17 points from Steven Werner. Konner Tucker and Demarcus Gatlin added 14 and 12 points, respectively.
The win was a big one for the Bearkats as Sam Houston looks to finish in the top eight teams in the Southland race to earn a berth in the Southland Conference post-season tournament at the Merrill Center in Katy.
The Bearkats dominated in the paint, out-rebounding the Bears 49-32 and out-scoring UCA in the paint 38-16. James led Sam Houston with 11 rebounds. Werner added 10 boards, Antuan Bootle had 8 and Tucker pulled down 7
Central Arkansas (7-17, 2-10) was led by Jarvis Garner with 16 points.
"I was really happy with the way we finished the game," SHSU head coach Jason Hooten said. "We've had some games this year where we hadn't really put the pedal down at the end. We really did a great job of finishing. It was a great all-around effort by everybody."
UCA scored the first basket and tied the score four times in the first half. But the Bears never led again. Sam Houston pulled away for eight point leads three times, the last 59 seconds before half when Aaron Harwell nailed a jumper for a 34-26 Kat margin. Sam Houston led 34-29 at intermission.
The Bears cut the SHSU margin to two points at the 15:33 mark in the second half as LaQuentin Miles for on a jumper to make the score 42-40. Both teams combined for just a pair of free throws in the next four minutes before Tucker started a Bearkat run with a jumper at the 10:03 mark.
Eventually Sam Houston pulled out to a 20-point lead in the second period.
Sam Houston State interrupts Southland Conference action Saturday as the Bearkats play host to the University of Toledo Saturday at 2 p.m. in one of 12 Sears Bracketbuster games involving league teams.