Central Arkansas (21-4, 11-1), leaders of the East Division and the Southland's overall leader, led all but one minute of the game, building an 18 point lead with 7:24 to go in the game.
Sam Houston (13-10, 8-4), the first place team in the West, fought back to cut the Bears' margin to five points, 60-55, with 15 seconds to play but ran out of time.
Britni Martin, Sam Houston's first team All-Southland forward, scored 19 points and pulled down five rebounds. Chanice Smith added 10 points.
The Bearkats outscored the Bearkats 28-20 in the paint and pulled down one more rebound than UCA. But Central Arkansas won the game at the free throw line, hitting 18-of-26 (69.2 percent) from the charity stripe while Sam Houston took only 12 free throws, hitting seven.
Destinee Rogers and Nakeia Guiden also scored in double figures for UCA, Rogers with 14 points and Guiden with 12.
Sam Houston shot 32.8 percent from the field (21-of-64) but was only 6-of-21 from three point range.
Central Arkansas built a 14-point lead late in the first half. The Bears led by eight, 35-27 at intermission. The Bears went on a 13-3 run midway through the second half to build an 18 point lead, 55-37, on a layup by Hebert with 7:24 to play.
Smith's three-pointer with 15 seconds remaining saw Sam Houston pull within five points, 60-55.
Sam Houston State returns to Johnson Coliseum to play host to Northwestern State Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.