Junior forward Jaren Lewis recorded his second-straight double-double, recording 18 points and 20 rebounds and the Wildcats stormed back from a late second-half deficit, but fell late 69-65 to Nicholls State.
Lewis said ahead of the game, the men knew they would need an strong rebounding performance to compete against the third best rebounding team in the conference.
“Crashing the boards was definitely an emphasis,” Lewis said. “We knew how hard they crashed the glass so we had to try to match their effort. They are good on the glass and they were good again [Wednesday].”
The Colonels came into the game ranked as the top team in the conference and in the waning minutes of the game proved why. After the Wildcats ended the first half on a 12-5 run to take a 35-33 at the half, Nicholls broke off a run of its own early in the second half.
With the game tied at 45, the Colonels, sparked by four threes rattled off an 18-4 to take a 63-49 run at 9:15 mark. Having all the momentum, it looked as if Nicholls would run away with the game. After a Wildcat turnover on their ensuing possession, the Colonels were primed to add to their lead, but on the fast break junior Hayden Howell stepped in front of Tevon Saddler to take the charge.
For the next five minutes, it was all ACU. Junior Jaylen Franklin led the charge with a pair of layups, but four other players contributed as the Wildcats cut the lead to 63-61 on basket from graduate transfer Tevin Foster. The two teams battled for the next four minutes and after a missed free throw by Nicholls, ACU had one last chance to tie the game, trailing 68-65, but couldn’t convert as Franklin missed a contested floater.
“They are a tough team and we knew it was going to be a battle,” Lewis said. “We just once again proved to ourselves that we can play with anyone in the league and we believe we can beat anyone in the league as well. We just have to start doing it more consistently.”
The loss drops ACU to 6-6 in conference play and to eighth place in the standings, but the Wildcats will have a chance to get back on track Saturday when they welcome Incarnate Word to town, who is yet to win a conference game this season. With six games left, ACU holds a one game lead over McNeese State for the final tournament spot.