The Wildcats let their lead slip to four but were able to go on a final run to secure an 80-66 win over Arlington Baptist College on Tuesday night. For most of the second half, the Wildcats were able to lead comfortably by 10 to 12 points, as they shot 49 percent from the field and were 9-19 from three-point range.
The win pushes ACU to 10-17 as they held a high-scoring Arlington Baptist team, who had averaged more than 97 points per contest, to less than 40 percent shooting. Arlington Baptist is now 13-12.
“We’re pretty proud of our guys for holding onto the lead and earning the victory,” assistant coach Brette Tanner said.
The Wildcats led 45-36 at halftime after being tied with the Patriots with three minutes left in the half. The team would then go on a 13-4 run that would secure their largest lead of the first half. Coming out, Arlington Baptist would continue their hot shooting from beyond the arc, led by junior guard Raphael Garcia, who had 22 points on 6-13 three-point shooting. For a span of eight minutes in the second half, the home team struggled to find any offense as their lead was cut to just 66-62 with three minutes left to go.
Sophomore guard Parker Wentz would help ACU close things out as he hit a jumper to push the lead to six with under 2:30 left on the clock. On the next Arlington Baptist possession, Wentz would grab a steal and pass out to freshman guard Michael Grant who would convert a layup plus a foul to give ACU momentum. Wentz later put the nail in the coffin with one of his two, three-point makes on the night to push the lead back up to double digits.
“Parker’s a winner,” Tanner said. “I mean that’s the best way to describe him. This year we’ve had to ask a lot of him with all the injuries, but in the long run, it’s going to help. I’m excited to see what he can do for us next year.”
Four Wildcats finished with double figures. Wentz had 24 points on 7-14 shooting and 8-10 from the free-throw line. Grant tied his season-high with 17 points on a superb 7-8 shooting night and hit his first six shots from the field. Junior guard Julian Edmonson added 16 points on 3-4 three-point shooting, while sophomore forward Austin Cooke was solid with 11 points and eight rebounds.
Taking care of loose balls and securing rebounds proved to be an obstacle for the Wildcats early on as even with their height advantage, they struggled on the glass. ACU had an average of three inches over each Arlington Baptist player, but were still being out-rebounded 19-13 in the first half. They were able to turn things around, but still finished short, 35-36.
“At halftime, we talked about getting active and taking care of business on the glass,” Tanner said. “Austin [Cooke] did a good job on getting his hands on the ball, and big Serb [junior forward Alek Milosavljevic] played good minutes for us.”
The Wildcats will face the Southwestern Adventist Knights at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday in Moody Coliseum. It will be the second-to-last home game for the Wildcats this season.