ABILENE, Texas — The Wildcat women's basketball team is used to having the proverbial target on its back, but ACU goes into its first Southland Conference Tournament as an underdog.
Following a four-year transition period to Division I in which the Wildcats were not eligible for NCAA or conference post-season games, ACU has made this weekend's tournament as the seven seed.
"I'm so proud of them," fifth-year head coach Julie Goodenough said. "They've made history getting us to the tournament, and now we want to go down there and have fun."
ACU will face sixth-seed New Orleans in the first round on Thursday at 1:30 p.m. in Katy, Texas. The Wildcats defeated the Privateers, 80-70, in Abilene in late December.
After starting the conference slate with six straight victories, the Wildcats have fallen off recently. Poor offensive production has resulted in five losses in-a-row and just three wins in the last 12 games.
"We've really struggled to score. The only thing I can explain that with is we're leg-weary," Goodenough said before the team departed for Katy on Tuesday.
"We're taking it easy on our legs this week, and making sure mentally we're ready to go, that we have an attitude of excellence. We expect to score a lot of points on Thursday."
This is the third straight year that the ACU women's team has qualified for post-season play. The Wildcats went to the WNIT the past two seasons, including a road win at Oklahoma State last year.
"Nothing is going to be like the conference tournament," leading-scorer Breanna Wright said. "We haven't been here before, so we're excited to get that new experience under us. But I think any postseason has prepared us for this opportunity."
Should ACU defeat New Orleans, it would face third-seed Central Arkansas on Friday. The Sugar Bears beat the Wildcats by more than 10 points in each of their two regular season meetings this year.
Goodenough stressed the importance of picturing the Southland Tournament as an entirely new season, and having a fresh and confident mindset.
"Whatever we do there we're going to set the precedent for next year's team," said Goodenough. "Let's go reckless abandon and give it our best shot.
"If we're going to go, let's go win it."