Wildcats back at home on Wednesday against Lamar

January 30th, 2018 - ABILENE – The ACU Wildcats’ march to a possible berth in the Southland Conference Post-Season picks up again Wednesday night when they host a huge game against Lamar at Moody Coliseum.

Both teams enter the 7 p.m. game at 13-9 overall and 5-4 and tied for seventh in league play with the top eight teams at the end of the 18-game league schedule reaching the tournament in Katy. Add to that the fact that this will be the only time these teams meet this season – thereby giving one a tiebreaker edge over the other in the event of a tie somewhere in the standings – and this game takes on larger stakes.

ACU enjoyed its first bye week of the conference season last Saturday and will enter Wednesday night’s game coming off an 80-66 loss last week at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. That ended a stretch of nine straight game days without a bye and four of five games on the road. The Wildcats, however, will have had two true days off and three days of workouts in preparation for Wednesday night’s game, which head coach Joe Golding said has been noticeable in practice.

“I was in the locker room earlier (Tuesday) and (senior forward) Drake Green told me it felt like he’d been off for a month,” Golding said. “The bye came at a great time for our guys. It gave them a chance to step away from basketball for a couple of days and then come back with a fresh outlook and work on some little things in practice that have been forgotten a little bit in the grind of getting ready for games.”

Wednesday night’s game begins a stretch that will see ACU play five of its last nine regular-season games at home, including the home final on Feb. 24 when the Wildcats will celebrate Senior Night (Green, Isaiah Tripp and Tevin Foster), as well as the 50th anniversary of the first game in Moody Coliseum. But ACU also plays road games at Sam Houston State (Saturday), Southeastern Louisiana (Feb. 17), Stephen F. Austin (Feb. 28) and Incarnate Word (March 3) in the second half, leaving little room for error as those teams – outside of UIW’s 0-9 league mark — are 19-7 in Southland play.

And aside from UIW, ACU’s other home opponents in the second half – Lamar, Nicholls, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and Central Arkansas – are 21-15 in league play and all battling for spots in the eight-team conference tournament field.

“This is the time of the year when you say, ‘Man, this is the biggest game on the schedule,’ and then we’ll turn the page on Thursday and Saturday’s game against Sam Houston State will be the biggest game on the schedule,” Golding said. “Every game is big because every team is trying to position itself to get to Katy and have a chance to win that and go on to the NCAA Tournament.”

ACU enters Wednesday night’s contest led by a quartet of players averaging in double figures, led by sophomore center Jalone Friday, who is scoring 13.8 points per game while hauling down 4.6 rebounds per contest. Junior forward Jaren Lewis leads the league in field goal percentage (60.9 percent) while averaging 13.1 points and a team-best 6.5 rebounds per game. He ranks in the top 25 in the country in field goal percentage.

Foster is averaging 12.7 ppg and leads the club at the free throw line, shooting 80.6 percent (75 of 93), while junior point guard Jaylen Franklin is averaging 10.0 points and 4.7 assists per game. He’s among league leaders in assists per game and field goal percentage (55.3 percent).

After rallying to defeat rival McNeese at home Saturday, the Cardinals have moved into a two-way tie for seventh place in the Southland standings with their upcoming opponent. The Cardinals were ninth in the league standings prior to Saturday's victory over the Cowboys, and LU will look to continue that climb in a venue that hasn't been kind to the Cardinals.

Last season's contest saw the Cardinals enjoy a 15-point second-half lead before the Wildcats rallied to win the game on a Payten Ricks half-court shot at the buzzer. The Cardinals are 4-9 (.308) all-time in Abilene and have dropped three straight in the series. The Cards' three-game slide came following a stretch that saw LU win six of seven in the series.

Sparked by senior Colton Weisbrod, the Cardinals are averaging better than 77 points per game on the season. Weisbrod is one of three Cardinals averaging in double figures on the season, and is one only three players averaging at least 20.0 points per game in conference games.

Although not ranked among the team's top three scorers, senior Joey Frenchwood is coming off his best performance of the season. The California native's senior season has been hampered by injuries, but he scored a season-high 19 points to help LU rally for a six-point victory over rival McNeese last Saturday.

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