The men’s basketball team concluded its season Saturday with an 81-72 loss on the road against Houston Baptist, to finish ninth in the Southland Conference. The men slipped down two spots from last year, when they finished at seventh in the conference.
The Wildcats started out the season with 11 non-conference games, winning the first two games against Schreiner University and the University of New Hampshire.
Charleston Southern University handed the men their first loss with a 66-65 defeat, however, the men would avenge the loss as they went to South Carolina to take on CSU again on its home court and won in overtime 85-82.
ACU would finish conference play 6-5 and on a two-game losing streak, which eventually grew to five-straight after three losses to eventual regular-season champ New Orleans, Southeastern Louisiana and Central Arkansas to begin Southland play.
The men bounced back, though, and picked up a big 69-60 win at home against Stephen F. Austin for their first conference victory of the year and the team’s first win over SFA since 2014.
But nine games into the conference season the Wildcats found themselves 8-12 overall and near the bottom of the conference at 2-7 and returning to Moody to face conference leader UNO, yet again. However, it was at this point the team showed glimpses of its full potential as it defeated the Privateers 70-69 in overtime and went on to win four out of its next six games.
Redshirt freshman center Jalone Friday had a clutch three-pointer that came towards the end of regulation, and also another three pointer that came in the final seconds of overtime that won the game. On Wednesday, Friday earned the honor of Southland Conference Freshman of the Year, despite being slowed by an injury toward the end of the season. This is the second year in a row the Wildcats have had the freshman of the year, with Franklin winning it last year.
Friday was the co-team leader in scoring as he averaged 13.7 points per game, and second on the team with 142 total rebounds. He also had five different games over the season where he put up 20 or more points and posted three double-doubles.
It was Friday, who would also play a large role in the team’s victories over Sam Houston State, twice and McNeese State for the Wildcats first conference road win of the season.
Sophomore point guard Jaylen Franklin spoke about enjoying big wins like those.
“The part I think I enjoyed the most was when we had our back against the wall and we had that losing streak, I like how we bounced back and stayed humble.” Franklin said.
Having moved up as far as seventh in the standing men fell in three of their last four games of the season, and eventually dropping them to ninth, one spot away from qualifying for the conference tournament, had ACU been eligible.
Sophomore Jaren Lewis was also a standout statistically this season as he was the co-leader in scoring on the team with Friday averaging 13.7 points per game. He also led the team in rebounds as he totaled 190 on the season.
“We grew a lot over the course of the year and we made some huge strides,” Lewis said. “We learned from some of our failures and losses and really improved as the year went on.”
Franklin also put up good numbers this season averaging 10.8 points per game and 4.4 assists per game.
The men finished with a 7-11 conference record, slipping in one more game than they did last year when they went 8-10, and a 13-16 overall record.