By Blake Penfield, Sports Writer
The men’s basketball club pulled out two huge victories against the Texas A&M University-Commerce Lions and the Dallas Baptist University Patriots on Saturday and Monday nights, respectively.
The wins put the Wildcats’ season record at 5-1 and dropped A&M-Commerce’s record to 5-2 and DBU’s record to 2-3.
ACU started out Tuesday’s game against DBU sluggishly, giving the Patriots a 7-0 run in the opening minutes of the game. However, guard Philip Brooks—highest scorer for the night with 21 points—snapped the scoring draught with a three-pointer that would set the tone for the way he and the Wildcats played for the rest of the night.
ACU continued to play aggressive offense and unrelenting defense until they had secured a 39-31 lead at halftime.
The first half was just a small preview of what the Cats would offer up in the second. With a flurry of three-pointers and forced turnovers, ACU consistently gained even more ground throughout the second half until DBU finally showed some kind of life with a brief four-point run with 8:48 left on the clock. This would prove to be the last substantial effort for the Patriots to avoid defeat as ACU guards Norman Alexander and Tiago Souza sunk three-pointer after three-pointer.
The game ended with the Cats enjoying a solid 76-61 victory and three players contributing double digits to the score.
“It was good because it was one of the best games we played overall as a team. We played consistent without much ups and downs,” forward Brooks Norman said.
Saturday night’s game against A&M-Commerce was not quite as decisive, but a few clutch plays in the final minutes of the game ensured similar results.
The first half of the game went smoothly for the Wildcats, but after halftime the team began to slump.
“We came out and played a really good first half offensively and defensively, though we didn’t shoot our free throws well. The second half we came out flat,” head coach Jason Copeland said.
This slump led to ACU trailing the Lions 76-66 with five-and-a-half minutes left on the clock.
With the game’s leading scorer with 27, A&M-Commerce guard Lamar Searight, burying bucket after bucket, the Wildcats finally ignited their run with a deep three-pointer by guard Tiago Souza. Guard Philip Brooks continued the trend for ACU by adding another two points to the scoreboard with a pair of free throws.
A&M-Commerce’s Searight tried to swing the momentum back the Lions’ way with a quick jump shot, but from this point on, it was all Wildcats basketball. Brooks answered the jumper with one of his own and cut the Lions’ lead to 78-73 with three minutes left.
Searight scored yet again only to have Wildcat guard Cameron Holson roar back with a three-pointer.
After a made free throw by ACU center Marcos Hubner and a lay-up by guard Courtnie Ross, the Wildcats found themselves with the lead for the first time since the beginning of the half. But Searight wasn’t done yet.
With yet another jumper and 51 seconds left, Searight cut the Wildcat lead to a mere point.
At this point Commerce began to foul ACU at every possession to get ACU to the foul line and give themselves maximum offensive opportunities. But the Cats would not flinch and they sunk five out of six free throws in the final 30 seconds of the game.
The victory marked the first time the Wildcats have defeated the Lions in five games.
Copeland chalks Commerce’s inability to put up numbers at the end of the game to solid Wildcat defense.
“We forced them into some tough shots and limited them to that one shot. We rebounded the ball well late and had some guys make some big shots late,” he said.
High scorer for the Wildcats Courtnie Ross gives a lot of credit to the fans.
“We feed off the crowd. We feed off their energy. We haven’t won a crossover game in three years, so this was a big step for our team and our school as a whole,” Ross said. “It feels good.”