ABILENE – What started out so promisingly ended in heartbreak Saturday afternoon as the ACU Wildcats dropped a 71-69 heartbreaker to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in Southland Conference men's basketball action at Moody Coliseum.
The Wildcats jumped out to a 20-4 lead in the first half only to see the Islanders rally to take the lead on a 3-pointer by Brandon Pye's 3-pointer with less than five seconds to play and win it on called charge on Julian Edmonson with less than one second to play.
The loss drops the Wildcats to 8-16 overall and 2-8 in the Southland Conference, while the Islanders improve to 11-14 and 8-4. ACU will be back in action Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in San Antonio when it takes on Incarnate Word in a game that will be broadcast on ESPN3.
The Wildcats jumped all over the Islanders, blowing out to a 20-4 lead, only to see Corpus Christi rally in the final five minutes of the first half to cut the deficit from 15 points to just six (35-29) at the break. Then the Islanders outscored ACU 25-9 in the first 8:07 of the second half to take their largest lead of the game at 54-44 with 11:53 to play.
"We spent a lot of energy to get that lead," ACU head coach Joe Golding said, "and then we couldn't sustain it. We were tired the last five minutes of the first half and the first 10 minutes of the second half and it showed. We're shorthanded, so we're having to play a lot of guys a lot of minutes and it caught up to us in those two instances."
But as has been their M.O. all season, the Wildcats fought back from the 10-point deficit, ripping off a big 19-8 run of their own to grab a 63-62 lead on a 3-pointer by Julian Edmonson with 4:28 to play.
From there on out, it was a back-and-forth contest with neither team holding more than a two-point lead.
With 2:14 to play, Austin Cooke dropped two free throws to give the Wildcats a 67-66 lead before Joy Williamson hit a layup to give the Islanders a 68-67 lead with 1:54 to play. On the Wildcats' ensuing possession, Edmonson was fouled and went to the line where he missed the first free throw and made the second to knot the score at 68 apiece with 1:36 to play.
On Corpus Christi's next possession, John Jordan committed a turnover with Edmonson picking up the loose ball and being fouled by Hameed Ali. But Edmonson missed both free throws with 1:15 to play to keep the game tied.
With 37 seconds to play, Jake Kocher threw up an air ball on a 3-point attempt and ACU's Riley Payne grabbed the loose ball and was fouled by Williamson with 31.7 seconds to play. Payne made the first free throw, but missed the second to make it a 69-68 Wildcat lead.
Corpus Christi called timeout to play for the final shot, and they got it when Jordan found Pye wide open in the far corner for a 3-pointer, which splashed home to give the Islanders a 71-69 lead. Edmonson took the inbounds pass, sprinted up the right side of the floor and cut toward the basket where he was met by Rashawn Thomas. The two collided and the officials called Edmonson for a charge with 0.35 seconds to play.
The Islanders simply inbounded the ball and that was it for the Wildcats, who suffered another in a string of heartbreaking losses.
Edmonson led the Wildcats with 18 points off the bench, while Parker Wentz and Cooke each had 14 points.
Both teams shot the lights out from the field with Corpus Christi shooting 58.1 percent for the game (25 of 43) compared to 55.3 percent for ACU (21 of 38). The Wildcats started the game by hitting 15 of their first 16 free throws, but finished 2 of 6 in the decisive final 96 seconds.
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