Wildcats rally to beat McNeese, get second-straight conference win
A team that holds the kind of post-season aspirations that ACU does has to sometimes win a game that it might not deserve to put in the “W” column.ABILENE, Texas -
Wednesday night was one of those games for the ACU Wildcats.
After a lackluster first half that ACU head coach Joe Golding called “embarrassing” and trailing by as many as 13 points early in the second half, the Wildcats somehow found a way to pull out a 79-74 win over McNeese at Moody Coliseum.
ACU trailed 42-30 at halftime and twice by 13 in the second half before completely flipping the script on the Cowboys and pulling out its third straight win over McNeese. The win pushes the Wildcats to 10-6 overall and 2-1 in the Southland Conference, in the process snapping the Cowboys’ three-game winning streak and dropping them to 5-8 and 2-1.
The Wildcats fought back to within two points with 11:10 to play in the game on a 3-pointer by Jalone Friday before the Cowboys ran off another run to go back up by eight points (72-64) with 4:06 to play. But that’s when the Wildcats turned the game around, outscoring the Cowboys 15-2 in the final 2:26 to pull out the dramatic victory.
Graduate transfer guard Tevin Foster – who entered the game averaging 22.0 points per game in two conference games – led all scorers with 17, while Jaren Lewis was sensational with 15 points, seven rebounds and seven assists. Junior guard Jaylen Franklin matched his career-high of 10 rebounds to go along with eight rebounds and seven assists in a terrific 36 minutes of play.
Hayden Farquhar broke out of a shooting slump to score 12 points off the bench as the Wildcats’ bench outscored the Cowboys’ bench 27-11.
McNeese pushed its lead back to eight points (72-64) with 4:06 to play after a Stephen Ugochukwu free throw and appeared to be on its way to a big road win over the Wildcats. But in the timeout huddle after that free throw, Golding told his team the game wasn’t over, to keep grinding and get some defensive stops because there was “plenty of time left.”
Golding was exactly right.
ACU turned up the defensive pressure, not allowing the Cowboys to find any offensive rhythm in the final four minutes. In fact, in those final four minutes the Wildcats held McNeese to just 1 of 4 shooting from the field, out-rebounded one of the league’s top rebounding teams 5-1 and forced four turnovers.
All of that helped the Wildcats rally in the final 2:26 for the win.
Out of the timeout, Lewis hit a pair of free throws to make it a 72-66 game, and then Isaiah Tripp stole the inbounds pass and was fouled on the layup attempt. He missed both free throws, but the momentum was clearly with the Wildcats. After the teams traded turnovers, Foster buried a 3-pointer from the top of the key to cut the McNeese lead to 72-69.
Foster then grabbed a defensive rebound after a miss by Kalob Ledoux and found Franklin for a layup to cut the McNeese lead to 72-71 with 1:53 left in the game. Ledoux then hit a driving layup to make it a 74-71 McNeese lead with 1:22 to play before Lewis hit a driving layup off a feed from Foster with 1:10 left to cut it to a 74-73 game.
With 47 seconds to play, James Harvey threw the ball out of bounds to give the Wildcats the ball with a chance to take the lead. Franklin got the ball in the corner and made one of his patented drives to the basket along the baseline and dropped a layup in to give his team a 75-74 lead with 27 seconds to play.
Jarren Greenwood then missed a 3-pointer with 12 seconds to play and Franklin grabbed a huge defensive rebound. He pushed the ball ahead to Foster, who was fouled intentionally by Quatarrius Wilson, the league’s leading rebounder (9.6 per game entering the contest), who fouled out with just four points and seven rebounds.
Foster hit both free throws with 9.64 seconds to play and was then fouled on the inbounds pass and hit two more free throws with a little less than nine seconds left to give the Wildcats a 79-74 lead. Ledoux missed a 3-pointer with two seconds left and Franklin grabbed the rebound and ran out the clock on the Wildcats’ second straight conference win.
THREE THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW • After being out-rebounded by McNeese 23-16 in the first half, the Wildcats out-rebounded the Cowboys 18-14 in the second half, including 5-1 in the key late stretch of the contest.
• The Wildcats were just 1 of 13 from 3-point range in the first half, but hit 5 of 11 from the beyond the arc in the second half. After hitting just 1 of 4 3-point attempts in the first half, Foster was 3 for 3 in the second half.
• Only three teams in the Southland Conference have double-digit wins so far this season: Stephen F. Austin (12-3 overall, 1-1 in the Southland), Lamar (10-6 and 2-1) and ACU (10-6 and 2-1).
THEY SAID IT
ACU head coach Joe Golding on the win …
“We didn’t have them ready to play, and that’s on the coaching staff. That first half (down 42-30) was the most embarrassed I’ve been as the head coach at ACU and that’s not on the players; that’s on the coaching staff. It’s up to us to get them ready to play. We have to do a better job behind the scenes to have them ready to play.
The thing I liked about the game is that we found a way to win. That shows some maturity and toughness and camaraderie of guys stepping up and making plays and believing we could win. If you’re going to go on a run like we think we can you have to win games like that one (Wednesday) every now and then.”
UP NEXT The Wildcats will be back at home Saturday at 4 p.m. when they host Southeastern Louisiana in another Southland Conference matchup. The Lions are 8-7 overall and 2-0 in the league. The game can be heard on 98.1 FM The Ticket. Admission is free for everyone 14 and under.