March 15, 2019 - KATY, Texas — Aside from winning and advancing to Saturday’s semifinal round of the Southland Conference Postseason Tournament, ACU head coach Julie Goodenough had another goal for her team in Friday morning’s quarterfinal contest vs. Central Arkansas: set the tournament single-game record for 3-pointers made and attempted.
Consider it Mission Accomplished for the Wildcats … on all three parts.
The most crucial goal — winning the game — was never in doubt after the midway point of the second quarter as ACU turned on the jets after trailing 15-11 late in the first quarter, going on a 27-6 run over the final 12:21 of the first half to take a commanding 38-21 halftime lead on the way to an 82-54 destruction of the Sugar Bears at the Merrell Center.
The victory sends the Wildcats (21-9) into a Saturday afternoon semifinal matchup against No. 1 seed Lamar with the winner advancing to Sunday afternoon’s tournament championship game. Tipoff from the Merrell Center is set for 1 p.m.
ACU was well on its way to knocking down its other two goals at halftime when the Wildcats went to the locker room with that 17-point lead, built on 7 of 17 shooting from 3-point range and a defense that held explosive UCA guard Kamry Orr to just five points. Orr — who scored 29 points in UCA’s Thursday win over Sam Houston State — picked up three quick fouls and was forced to sit out seven minutes of the half.
Her absence — as well as ACU’s solid shooting (13 of 29 overall from the floor in the first half) — gave the Wildcats the opening they needed to take control of the game.
Orr gave UCA a 15-11 lead with 4:30 left in the first quarter before Sara Williamson went on a 5-0 run of her own to end the quarter that included a 3-pointer and another jumper just before the first quarter buzzer, giving her team a 16-15 lead. The Wildcats dominated the action in the second quarter, outscoring the Sugar Bears 11-2 in the first 6:30 of the quarter to take a 27-17 led. Breanna Wright — who finished the game with 14 points on the day and 999 for her career — had a pair of 3-pointers in the run that gave ACU complete control of the contest.
Orr picked up her third foul barely three minutes into the quarter and she went to the bench and stayed there throughout the duration the run that turned the game in the Wildcats’ favor. She didn’t come back into the game until 3:42 remained in the half, and by that time it was too late for the second team all-conference selection to make a different.
ACU stretched the lead to 16 late in the half before the Sugar Bears got a bucket by Alana Canady with 44 seconds left to make it a 35-21 ACU lead. The Wildcats, though, got a stop in the final 10 seconds and Wright buried a 3-pointer at the first-half buzzer to give her team a 38-21 lead at the break.
“It’s no secret that the key to our run in the second quarter is that Kamry was on the bench,” Goodenough said. “I told her after the game that she’s my favorite opposing player in this league because of the way she plays and what she does for her team. We knew we would have to try and keep her in check, but it seemed to elevate our play when she went to the bench.”
The second half was more of a record watch for the Wildcats as they buried 9 of 18 3-point attempts in the second half as they finished the game 16 for 35 from beyond the arc. The old records were 14 made by Nicholls (2012 vs. UCA and 2014 vs. Oral Roberts) and 31 attempts by Stephen F. Austin (2010 vs. Northwestern State).
The only time the Sugar Bears made a run at getting back into the game came early in the third quarter when they went on a 6-0 run to cut a 20-point lead to 14 (43-29) with 6:32 to play. A steal by Maddie Goodner led to a fast-break runout by Orr, who missed the layup that would have cut ACU’s lead to 43-31 with plenty of time left.
Instead the Wildcats went on an 11-0 run of their own — led by six points from Lexie Ducat — to regain complete control of the contest at 54-29 with 3:07 left in the quarter. That big lead allowed Goodenough to clear her bench in the final quarter and give plenty of rest to starters Wright, Williamson, Ducat, Dominique Golightly and Makalya Mabry, who will all have to be fresh to take on a Lamar team that leads the country in steals (469), steals per game (16.2) and turnovers forced per game (26). Lamar senior guard Chastadie Barrs is the all-time Division I leader in steals and this year leads the country in steals and steals per game.
The final few minutes of Friday’s game turned to the record book as the Wildcats’ assault from 3-point range continued. Freshman guard Kamryn Mraz — who had scored just three points in six previous games played this season — hit the record-breaking 3-pointer with 1:34 left in the game when she buried a 3-pointer with 1:34 left in the game to give ACU a 77-50 lead. Josie Larson hit the team’s final 3-pointer of the afternoon with 1:03 left to make it 80-52.
“We made no secret of the fact that we wanted to come down here and break the tournament single-game record for 3-pointers made and attempted, and that’s why we were running sets to get our shooters open in the fourth quarter,” Goodenough said. “But we did a lot of great things throughout the game to get us into position to be able to break those records. We shared the ball extremely well and our shooters were shot-ready when they got the ball, which is why we had 20 assists. And we were really locked in defensively and played exceptionally well on that end of the floor.”
Wright and Ducat were the game’s leading scorers with 14 points apiece, while Ducat and Mabry each grabbed a game-high eight rebounds. Williamson finished the game with 11 points and two assists, while Wright had seven assists, leaving her just four assists away from 400 for her career. She was 4 of 10 from 3-point range, while Mabry and Madi Miller were both 3 for 6, Mraz was 3 for 5, Golightly was 1 for 4, Williamson 1 for 1, Larson 1 for 1 and Ducat and Kayla Galindo each 0 for 1.
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