The men continued to make an early season statement on Saturday afternoon as they moved to 7-3 with a come-from-behind victory over Texas State, 72-68.
The Wildcats got 22 points from their leading scorer, sophomore Jalone Friday, as he continued to provide a consistent presence in the paint on both sides of the ball.
Friday said the game was a tale of two halves, and the defense stepped up in the final 20 minutes.
“At halftime we basically talked about how we have to get back to ourselves,” Friday said. “We knew we weren’t playing our game of basketball and we said that we had to go out and match or even have better energy than them. And I feel like when we play defense the way we did in the second half of yesterday’s game we’re tough to beat.”
Friday gave ACU its first lead of the game at 50-48 with a three-point field goal from the top of the key, but also added five blocks on the day to help rally the Wildcats from a 13-point deficit.
After gaining the lead on Friday’s second three of the game, the Bobcats moved back in front momentarily at 57-56, but junior Jaylen Franklin somehow managed to find a wide-open Payten Ricks in the opposite corner on the following possession. The sophomore calmly nailed the three-pointer and ACU took the lead for good.
Texas State did have a chance to tie the game trailing 71-68 with 32 seconds left. But Nijal Pearson missed the three-point attempt, and a free throw from grad transfer Tevin Foster sealed the deal with seven seconds on the clock. Foster finished with just nine points, but it was him who converted back-to-back threes midway through the second half to set up Friday’s go-ahead basket.
The other leading scorer for the Wildcats was junior Jaren Lewis, who added a quiet 14 points but had a crucial three-point play to spark the second-half run. During that run, Lewis said the team played with a spark and intensity it didn’t have in the first half.
“We just knew we had to play harder. Coach told us at halftime that we were getting outplayed and we had to pick up our intensity,” Lewis said. “That’s exactly what we did in the second half. We were more aggressive and we played a lot harder. The intensity really picked up on our end and we were able to take advantage.”
The Wildcats were also able to take advantage of loud home crowd, as it benefited late in the game from more than 1,300 fans who gathered for the annual Christmas Slam event.
The loss dropped the Bobcats to 5-5 and gives ACU arguably its biggest home win since moving to Div. 1, considering Texas State manufactured 22 wins a season ago.
Next up for the Wildcats, who have now won four-straight, is a rematch with Lipscomb next Sunday. The Bison took round one 75-67 back on Nov. 20, so ACU will likely be looking to avenge that loss.