The Wildcats battled in the second half to reclaim the lead, only to have it taken away by a Texas A&M Corpus Christi three-point field goal with less than five seconds left to steal the victory in Moody Coliseum on Saturday.
ACU inbounded the ball with 4.89 seconds left to junior guard Julian Edmonson who then drove the ball down the court to attempt a layup, only to be called for a charge with less than a second to play, finalizing the Wildcats’ loss, 71-69. The loss leaves ACU at 8-16 and 2-8 in conference. TAM-CC is now 11-14 and 8-4 in the Southland Conference.
“You have to trust the official to make the call and we just didn’t get the call to go our way this time,” head coach Joe Golding said. “We got the call against Central Arkansas on Parker’s (Wentz) goaltending call, but we just didn’t get it today.”
The Wildcats spent the majority of the second half playing catch up, as TAM-CC opened up the half on a 12-3 run and would later lead by double digits with less than 13 minutes to play. ACU fought back with tough perimeter defense and timely three-point makes, as they cut the score to a one-possession game with five minutes left.
Edmonson converted back-to-back three-point field goals to put the home squad up by one. With one minute left on the clock, Edmonson was fouled driving to the basket, only to miss both free-throw attempts, leaving the game tied 68-68. Sophomore forward Riley Payne was later fouled, and converted one of two free throws to give ACU a 69-68 lead with 35 seconds left to play. The Islanders would take the ball and convert on a corner three to take the lead for good.
“These guys are out there fighting,” Golding said. “They’re playing hard, they’re playing tough, they’re bought in and everyone is showing up. That’s a darn good team in Corpus and our guys wouldn’t quit.”
ACU led at halftime 35-29, after TAM-CC junior guard John Jordan sank a three at the buzzer to cut the lead to six. The Wildcats shot the ball with great efficiency out of the gate, leading the Islanders 20-4 with 12 minutes left in the first half, securing their largest lead of the game.
“The ball was moving, we were hitting the open shots, and I think we played great defense,” Edmonson said. “We fought back as they took the lead and one thing that our coach always tells us is we have to have toughness.”
The Islanders struggled early on, while the Wildcats shot over 50 percent for the first half and converted four of their first five three-point attempts. Sophomore forward Austin Cooke had 12 points in the first half, all coming off three-point field goals.
Edmonson led ACU scorers with 18 points, all coming in the second half. Cooke and sophomore guard Parker Wentz each finished the game with 14 points a piece. ACU shot 55 percent on the afternoon, and were an even 7-14 from beyond the arc.
“I had kind of a bad first half and my coaches told me I had to wake up, so I just tried to come out in the second half aggressive and help my team in any way I could,” Edmonson said.
TAM-CC was led by Jordan, who recorded a near triple-double with 20 points, nine assists and eight rebounds. Freshman forward Rashawn Thomas also had 20 points on a perfect 7-7 shooting night with six rebounds. As a team, the Islanders shot 58 percent but were only 2-13 from three-point attempts.