By Jared Fields, Sports Editor
Starting conference play with a 0-3 record, the Wildcats, the LSC South pre-season favorite, need wins to keep their post-season dreams alive.
Those hopes are why senior Kierstan Barbee said the first conference win Saturday was “very big.”
Conference play is still in the early part of the season, but Barbee’s 14 points and 16 rebounds in an 83-63 win against Eastern New Mexico helped give the Wildcats a first step toward getting back to a winning record.
Four other Wildcats scored in double-digits, led by sophomore point guard Alex Guiton with 20 points. Junior forward Lacey Blau and senior center Jamie Boles-Lord scored 11 each, and freshman Kristee Davidson added 10 points.
“The first conference win gives us confidence to go into the rest of the season,” Barbee said. “This conference is so tough; no matter who we win against, it’s a big deal.”
The Wildcats, who never trailed in the game, opened up a 37-17 lead after going on a 14-point run midway through the first half.
Coming from a 41-27 deficit into the half, Eastern New Mexico rallied to 48-39 with less than 14 minutes to play, but Kristee Davidson scored four points a steal to lead an 8-point run for the Wildcats.
With three minutes remaining, Eastern New Mexico came back to be down by 73-63, but the Wildcats scored the final 10 points to close the game.
The win comes at an opportune time for head coach Shawna Lavender and her team. ACU travels to Kingsville on Thursday to play a Texas A&M-Kingsville team that has lost nine of its last 10 games, then the Wildcats play Texas Woman’s on Saturday.
“Our last three games were the three toughest games we’ve played all year,” Lavender said, referring to games against West Texas A&M, Cameron and Southwestern Oklahoma State. “But the two games this weekend are winnable games.”
Lavender said the key to this weekend will be getting her team to focus.
“But sometimes it’s easier to get them to focus on the road,” Lavender said. “All they have is a bus ride, no outside distractions like you can get playing at home.”
The Wildcats next home game is at 6 p.m. Tuesday against Tarleton State.