ACU beats UIW for the first time since 2013

February 10th, 2018 - ABILENE – The ACU Wildcats rid themselves of some demons Saturday afternoon at Moody Coliseum as they vanquished an old foe and at the same time kept pace with the rest of the league in the race for one of eight spots in the Southland Conference Post-Season Tournament field.

The Wildcats dominated Incarnate Word in most phases Saturday afternoon on their way to an 80-69 win that doesn’t aptly describe how in command the Wildcats were for most of the contest. The win snapped a two-game losing streak overall for ACU, and, almost as importantly, snapped an eight-game losing streak to the Cardinals.

Before Saturday, the last time the Wildcats had beaten the Cardinals was Feb. 27, 2013, which also turned out to be ACU’s final win as an NCAA Division II program. Both ACU and UIW joined the Southland Conference in time for the 2013-14 season and since then the Cardinals had won eight straight over ACU.

But the Wildcats dictated play on both ends of the floor Saturday afternoon in a game that was highlighted, once again, by the spectacular play of forward Jaren Lewis. The junior from Orlando, Fla., went for 18 points and 20 rebounds last Wednesday night in a 69-65 home loss to league-leading Nicholls and then followed it up with 20 points and 17 rebounds in the win over UIW.

Those two rebounding totals are the two best single-game performances in ACU’s brief NCAA Division I history, but they also helped set the tone for ACU on Saturday. Aside from Lewis, the Wildcats also saw Tevin Foster score 17 and Drake Green 11, while junior forward Hayne Howell scored 12 points and pulled down rebounds off the bench in his best performance of the season.

ACU’s defense limited the Cardinals to just 40 percent shooting (18 for 45), while ACU shot 50 percent as a team (31 for 62), including 9 for 24 (37.5 percent) from 3-point range. The Wildcats also outscored UIW 12-0 in fast-break points as ACU’s transition defense was solid.

TURNING POINT

Two different turning points – one in each half – pushed the game in ACU’s favor, just as it appeared that the Cardinals might be trying to sneak back into the contest. 

ACU led by double digits with 8:34 left in the first half before a brief UIW burst cut the lead to 23-19 with 6:37 left in the opening frame. But ACU responded with a 21-9 run over the final 6:24 of the half to go into halftime leading 44-28.

Lewis had eight points, Jalone Friday had all six of his points in the run, B.J. Maxwell had a 3-pointer and Foster and Jaylen Franklin each had two points apiece. Franklin’s two points came on the final play of the half when Foster picked up a steal and fed the ball ahead to Franklin, who laid it in just before the halftime buzzer for a 16-point halftime lead.

UIW opened the second half, however, with a 7-0 burst out of the locker room to cut ACU’s lead to 44-35, forcing head coach Joe Golding to call a timeout. But ACU responded with a 14-3 run over the next four minutes to push the lead to 18 and UIW never really threatened the rest of the way.

Franklin got the run started with a jumper out of the timeout before Jaren Lewis took a feed from Trey Lenox and buried a 3-pointer for a 49-35 lead with 15:25 left. After back-to-back layups from Foster and Lenox make it 53-35, Cody Graham made a 3-pointer for UIW to cut it back to 53-38 with 14 minutes to play. But Lenox once again found an open Lewis for a 3-point attempt, which he buried for a 56-38 lead with 13:47 left in the contest.

The Cardinals would not get closer than 11 points the rest of the way as they fall to 5-17 overall and 0-12 in the league.

WHAT THE WIN MEANS

The Wildcats are now 15-11 overall and 7-6 in the Southland Conference. The win means that ACU will finish the day no worse than eighth in the league standings and possibly tied for seventh depending on the outcome of the Lamar-Sam Houston State game.

A Lamar loss would drop the Cardinals to 7-6 along with ACU, which owns the tiebreaker over Lamar. A Lamar win over Sam Houston would push the Cardinals to 8-5 and into sole possession of sixth place in the league, while Central Arkansas – which was off Saturday – would fall to seventh at 7-5, one-half game ahead of the Wildcats at 7-6.

THREE THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW

• In two games this week, ACU junior forward Jaren Lewis averaged 19.0 points and 18.5 rebounds per contest as the Wildcats split a pair of games against Nicholls and Incarnate Word.

• The Wildcats out-rebounded the Cardinals, 42-24, by far their largest margin in that category this season. And ACU outscored the Cardinals 42-14 in the paint, giving the Wildcats 83 points in the paint in their last two games combined.

• Incarnate Word went to the free throw line 36 times (making 26) to just 14 trips (and nine makes) for the Wildcats. UIW lost to ACU by 11 and outscored the Wildcats by 17 at the free throw line.

QUOTABLE

ACU head coach Joe Golding on the win…

"This is a big win because we were able to snap a losing streak and not let it continue to grow, and because we were able to beat a team that’s had our number since we moved to Division I. We’re one win away from clinching at least a winning season and these types of seasons are where this program is headed. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Most importantly, we took another step towards getting to Katy and the (Southland Conference) tournament."

UP NEXT

The Wildcats are off this Wednesday before returning to the road next Saturday to take on Southeastern Louisiana in Hammond, La. The game is set for a 5 p.m. tipoff.


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