By Daniel Johnson, Sports Editor
A 92-87 loss to Texas A&M-Kingsville on Saturday capped off the ACU men’s basketball team seventh-straight losing season, but head coach Jason Copeland is confident his team gained one thing from its 10-16 season: experience.
Copeland said ACU will have seven players returning next year with experience playing with each other, Copeland’s system and the level of competition.
“I think we got a good core group coming back,” Copeland said. “But I understand we still have some progress to be made.”
On paper, Copeland made progress in his second season as head coach, picking up two more wins this season than his first at the helm. ACU was 8-19 during Copeland’s first year, but out of its 10 wins, only one was during conference play.
“I think obviously we were a little disappointed with the way conference went,” Copeland said. “We improved though, not as much as I hoped, but I think we made some solid steps in the right direction.”
ACU lost to Kingsville after failing to bounce back from a 21-point second half deficit.
ACU was able to pull within four twice in the last 45 seconds but failed to take the lead in the final moments of the game.
“We just dug us a real big hole early in the game, and we started to fill the hole and couldn’t quite fill it all the way,” said guard Riley Lambert.
That hole began at halftime when ACU was down 49-37. Kingsville extended its lead to as much as 21 points until ACU went on a scoring surge.
ACU shot 15 of 27 from the floor and chipped away at Kingsville’s lead. Senior forward Igor Vrzina led the Wildcats in scoring with 20 points and 12 rebounds. The loss was Vrzina’s, guard Tiago Souza and guard Norman Alexander final collegiate game.
Forward Cam Holson, a two-year starter, is confident the lessons learned from this year will help ACU build towards a winning program.
“I think we realized that the more we play together and as a team the more success we’re going to have,” Holson said.
The biggest hole Copeland needs to fill during the recruiting season is a post. ACU lost its initial starting post Marcos Hubner early in the season and Vrizna will no longer be eligible.
“We need to go sign two big guys that can help us,” Copeland said.