Wildcats' rally to force OT, fall short against Drake in first DI postseason game

ACU at CIT.jpg

Drake outscored ACU 11-4 in overtime Monday afternoon as the Bulldogs were able to fend off a Wildcat squad making its NCAA Division I postseason debut, knocking the Wildcats out of the Tournament with an 80-73 first-round win at the Knapp Center.

The season-ending loss drops the Wildcats to a 16-16 season in 2017-18, a record that still represents the program’s first season of .500 or better basketball since a 20-9 campaign in 2007-08. The Bulldogs, meanwhile, improve to 17-15 and will move on to the second round where they will play either Wofford, Northern Colorado, Sam Houston State or Portland State.

Junior forward Jaren Lewis recorded his ninth double-double of the season with 13 points and 13 rebounds, while sophomore center Jalone Friday had 16 points and five rebounds for ACU. Tevin Foster scored 13 points and had seven rebounds, four assists and three steals in his final game as a Wildcat. ACU also played most of the second half and all of the overtime without junior point guard Jaylen Franklin, who scored four points in 24 minutes before leaving the game with an ankle injury.

But ACU got tremendous energy off the bench from B.J. Maxwell, Hayden Howell and Payten Ricks. Maxwell finished with 10 points and nine rebounds, while Howell had eight six points and four rebounds in 14 minutes and Ricks added eight points, three rebounds, two assists and two assists in 32 minutes.

It was Maxwell who sent the game to overtime when he grabbed an offensive rebound of a missed Friday 3-pointer and put it back in with 12 seconds to play in regulation, tying the game at 69-69. Drake’s all-time leading scorer Reed Timmer – who was averaging more than 19 points per game entering the game, but was held to just six points against ACU – missed a game-winning 3-pointer from the top of the key at the buzzer, sending the game to overtime.

But how the game got to that point is the story of the game.


The first half was a seesaw battle that saw ACU get it tied at the break, 28-28, on an offensive rebound and putback by Howell. But Drake scored the first five points of the second half and eventually pushed its lead to as many as 11 points as the duo of Ore Arogundade outside (25 points on 8 of 10 shooting from the floor, including 4 of 4 from 3-point range) and Nick McGlynn inside (22 points on 7 of 14 shooting from the floor and 8 of 11 from the line) took control of the contest.

While seemingly everything was falling for the Bulldogs for a while in the second half, it seemed as if nothing was falling for the Wildcats, who at one point missed 12 straight 3-point attempts in a period that spanned the end of the first half through the first six minutes of the second until Ricks hit one with 14:32 left in the second half to get ACU to within 40-33.

But Drake ran away again, pushing the lead to as many as 11 points (57-46) with 8:05 left and maintaining that lead as late as 2:50 left in regulation after two free throws from De’Andrae McMurray gave his team a 67-56 lead.

That’s when ACU’s pressure defense took over, forcing bad Drake offensive possessions and turnovers. And ACU – which won the rebounding battle by a staggering 54-40 count, including 22-10 on the offensive glass – was able to limit Drake to one shot on the defensive end, while getting multiple opportunities on the offensive end.

The comeback began in full force with 1:50 to play when Lewis converted a three-point play off a feed from Foster to cut the Drake lead to 69-62. Foster then picked Graham Woodward’s pocket and hit Ricks for a driving layup and ACU was suddenly behind by just five points (69-64) with 1:34 to play.

After Timmer – who was just 1 for 13 from the floor, including 0 for 8 from 3-point range – missed a 3-pointer with 1:06 to play, Lewis grabbed the rebound and 14 seconds later the Wildcats were within two points at 69-67 when Friday buried a triple from the left arc. On Drake’s ensuing possession, McMurray turned the ball over and Maxwell came away with the steal with 24 seconds left in regulation, giving ACU a chance to tie or win the game with the last shot.

Friday took a shot at the game-winner, but his 3-pointer was off the mark with 15 seconds left. But Maxwell was in the right spot to grab the offensive rebound and his putback with 12.9 seconds to play tied the game, 69-69, capping a 10-0 run by the Wildcats over the final 1:50 to tie it and send the game to overtime.

Foster hit a jumper in the lane to get overtime started, but after Timmer hit a free throw to bring Drake to within 71-70, McGlynn converted a three-point play to give his team a 73-71 lead that it would not relinquish the rest of the way. Maxwell scored the final bucket of the season for the Wildcats when his breakaway dunk with 2:21 left brought his team within 75-73, but McGlynn hit a jumper with 58 seconds left to make it 77-73, and then C.J. Rivers hit a pair of free throws at the 22-second mark to make it 79-73 and Timmer hit 1 of 2 with three seconds left for the final score.

ACU hit just 2 of 12 shots from the floor and didn’t go to the free throw line in the five-minute overtime session, while the Bulldogs hit 3 of 5 shots from the floor and 5 of 7 free throws.


• The 80-73 loss marked ACU’s first NCAA Division I postseason contest and its first postseason game of any kind since a loss to Texas A&M-Commerce in the 2008 Lone Star Conference Tournament semifinals when ACU was still an NCAA Division II affiliate.

• The game marked the first postseason game for the Wildcats past the conference tournament level since ACU lost to Truman State (Mo.) in the 1999 NCAA Division II South Central Region championship game. Interestingly, each of the last two times the Wildcats have reached a postseason tournament beyond the conference tournament level, they have failed to qualify for their conference tournament.

• The Wildcats said goodbye to three seniors after the game: guards Drake Green, Isaiah Tripp and Tevin Foster. Green and Tripp are on schedule to graduate in May, and Foster is on track to earn his master’s degree from ACU.

• In a physical contest that saw the teams combine to take 111 shots (86 by the Wildcats) with 55 of them coming inside the 3-point arc, the Wildcats were whistled for 23 fouls to just 12 for the Bulldogs. Drake shot 29 free throws to just three for the Wildcats, outscoring ACU 24-3 at the charity stripe, including 5-0 in overtime. ACU’s only three free throws came in the second half: 2 for 2 by Maxwell and 1-1 by Lewis.


ACU head coach Joe Golding on the loss …

“I was proud of the way we fought back to get the game tied and send it to overtime. We switched up on them in the last couple of minutes of regulation and the press really hurt them and got us back into the game. We did a good job of being aggressive today, and taking the ball to the basket, but it’s unfortunate we weren’t rewarded for that.

“This was a great experience for our players and a great step for our program. To come from where we were as an NCAA Division II program and then as a new NCAA Division I program a few years ago to playing a postseason game like this is a tremendous accomplishment and should get our fans excited. We lose some great seniors, but we’ve got a great team returning next year and we’re adding four really good pieces to the puzzle. We’ll take a couple of weeks off and re-group and then we get to work again on our ultimate goal of getting to Katy (site of the Southland Conference Postseason Tournament) and, ultimately, giving ourselves a chance to play in the NCAA Tournament.”

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