On an opening night that was filled with lots of excitement and anticipation, the men’s basketball team delivered an 86-68 victory over Randall University.
Junior forward Jaren Lewis, who picked up 17 points and 10 rebounds in the win, said it was a relief to get the season going.
“It feels really good, we’ve been waiting a long time to get that first game of the season under our belts,” Lewis said. “It’s a great feeling to get that first win, it’s better to start 1-0 than 0-1, but we also know we have a lot to work on and improve on, so we’re right back in the lab tomorrow.”
The defending Div. 2 National Champion gave the Wildcats a fight early on. Despite falling behind 10-0 out of the gate, the Saints battled back to cut the lead to 39-33 on a Brandon Askew three-pointer just before halftime.
But the size and depth of ACU began to wear down Randall late and the Wildcats 25-9 scoring run to open the second half diminished any hope of an upset.
“Coach kept the game plan simple, we knew what we had to do, we knew what we had to change from the first half,” Lewis said. “We had the same game plan, we just had to get better at it and continue to be locked in and just take advantage.”
Sophomore center Friday joined Lewis in the double-double category, as he led the game with 25 points and added ten rebounds. Junior guard Jaylen Franklin and graduate transfer Tevin Foster rounded out the double-digit scoring as Franklin posted 12 points and six assists and Foster had 17 points in his game as a Wildcat.
Head coach Joe Golding said the team obviously has things to work on moving forward, but he was pleased overall.
“[Randall is] a tough guard for us, they’re really really small so they spread us out. So we had to get out of somethings that we worked on over the last thirty days,” Golding said. “We obviously turned the ball over too much when we did that. But overall, a win is a win, and wins are hard to come by in college basketball.”
Next up for the Wildcats is an Arkansas State team that fell in its season-opening game against Evansville. This is the first time the two teams will face each other since 1995, but it is the 25th meeting all-time between the programs. The Red Wolves best the Wildcats in the all-time series 18-7.
The Wildcats will hope to slow down the Red Wolves leading scorer in Ty Cockfield. Cockfield had 20 points in Arkansas State’s opening game.
After the trip to Arkansas, ACU will have a fairly quick turnaround, as it hosts Howard Payne in Moody Coliseum on Thursday night.