The men’s basketball team entered Wednesday night’s match up with Stephen F. Austin looking for its fifth conference victory but, more importantly, its second straight victory over the Lumberjacks after last season’s 69-60 upset. For a while it looked as if they would, but a late push by SFA handed the Wildcats their third conference loss of the season, 76-66.
Trailing early by as many as 12 points, 27-15 after a Kevon Harris three-pointer with 10:48 to go in the first-half, the Wildcats rallied in a huge way. Sparked by a big first half from grad-transfer Tevin Foster, ACU outscored SFA 28-6 in the final 11 minutes of the half and headed to the locker room with a 43-33 lead. The lead was its largest at 11 after senior Drake Green nailed a three-pointer with 39 seconds left, but Leon Gilmore added a free throw for the Lumberjacks as the first half came to a close.
Foster said that during the 28-6 scoring run, the Wildcats were doing the fundamentals right.
“We were getting stops and moving the ball, and attacking them offensively,” he said.
But whatever SFA head coach Kyle Keller said to his team at halftime worked, because SFA rattled off a 10-2 run to pull within two at 45-43, just five minutes into the second half. And at the midway point of the half, the Lumberjacks had already tied the game and taken the lead at 53-52 after two free throws from T.J. Holyfield.
ACU battled to stay within striking distant, keeping it at a five-point deficit, as Foster got his first points of the second half after scoring 16 in the first, to make it 61-56. But for every Wildcat bucket, it seemed the Lumberjacks had one if not two.
At the 2:38 mark, SFA accented its second half transformation with a dunk by Shannon Bogues, and the Lumberjacks matched early first-half lead of 12 at 73-61. SFA would eventually outscore ACU 43-23 in the second half and hold the Wildcats to 0-7 from behind the arc after they had hit six in the first 20 minutes.
Junior guard B.J. Maxwell said it was his team’s defense that set the pace in the first half.
“Our defense was the key to our first half run. We set the tone on the end of the floor, and that led to pen shots and easy baskets,” Maxwell said. “We played like we had a point to prove that first half.”
Unfortunately for ACU, it was the SFA defense that showed up in the second half and held the Wildcats to just six field goals during the final 20 minutes. With the loss the Wildcats fall to 12-8 overall and 4-3 in conference play, but they are still very much in the hunt at this stage in the season. Meanwhile, SFA remains in a four-way tie atop the conference at 16-3 overall and 5-1 in the Southland.
Next up for the Wildcats is a trip to Conway, Arkansas, on Saturday as they take on Central Arkansas in a men’s and women’s doubleheader starting at 1 p.m.