By Jeff Craig, Sports Writer
While students were enjoying their Christmas break, the women’s basketball team celebrated the holidays by winning six of nine games, smashing NCAA records and achieving personal milestones along the way.
The Wildcats entered the Christmas holiday with a 3-3 record and an intense schedule ahead of them. However, ACU’s month-long hiatus from classrooms proved to be a time of great success for the team. Victories over Incarnate Word, Cameron University, Southwestern Oklahoma State, Texas A&M-Commerce, Texas Woman’s and Eastern New Mexico State have the Wildcats sitting now at 9-6, and head coach Shawna Lavender said she sees potential for success in the rest of the season.
“We got some momentum with those four wins in a row right before break,” Lavender said. “I’m excited about getting to some conference opponents.”
At this point in the season, the Wildcats are averaging 71.9 points per game while holding their opponents to 71.1 points per game. The low scoring differential indicates ACU thrives in close games. A major part of the squad’s success has been seen in the post area, where the Wildcats are averaging 45.9 rebounds per game, compared to an average 37.6 boards for their opponents. Much of the team’s post presence is found in senior forward Audrey Maxwell-Lively, who leads the Wildcats in scoring with an average of 15.2 points per game.
On Jan. 5, the team gained national attention after a record-setting game against Texas Woman’s University back at Moody Coliseum. The Wildcats defeated the Pioneers 147-143 in a quadruple overtime thriller. The Wildcats found themselves down by eight points at halftime but managed to climb back and take the lead at 89-87 before Texas Woman’s tied the game sending it to its first of four overtimes. Texas Woman’s head coach Beth Jillson said she was amazed with the performances of both teams and proud of how her Pioneers played in a losing effort.
“I thought both teams played exceptionally well; it was heartbreaking that either team had to lose,” Jillson said.
The game grabbed the national media spotlight on outlets such as ESPN and also broke many records. The teams combined for 290 points, which set the NCAA record for points in a game in any division. ACU also set the NCAA record for points in overtime by scoring 58 points in the extra frames. The Texas Woman’s Pioneers also set the record for most points by a losing team by putting up 143 points on the Wildcats. Numerous Lone Star Conference records also were broken during the game. Texas Woman’s forward Renee Renz scored an astonishing 63 points in the game. Renz also broke the LSC record for field goals made by making 22 shots throughout the game.
Along with NCAA and LSC records, many ACU records were overtaken. The team broke the school record for points (147), assists (40), field goals made (59) and field goals attempted (112). Numerous individual marks were set. Junior guard Kat Kundmueller set the ACU record for assists in the game with 16, while forward Kristee Davidson broke the school record for field-goal attempts by taking 32 shots. The show, however, was stolen by junior guard Jamie Meyer, who set the ACU scoring record by pouring in 49 points to lead the team to victory. Coach Lavender was not just impressed with Meyer’s golden touch but with her all-around performance in the game.
“It seemed like everything Jamie shot went in,” Lavender said. “She did a great job of getting to the basket and finding some open shots on the break.”
This quadruple overtime thriller was not Lavender’s first experience in the marathon-type game. In 1997, Lavender was playing for the SMU Mustangs when they beat the TCU Horned Frogs in four overtime periods. Lavender was in just as much amazement during her second quadruple overtime game.
“Every time I looked up at the scoreboard, I could not believe what was happening; it was fun to be a part of,” Lavender said.
As if the excitement from that record-setting night was not enough, Lavender added to the buzz surrounding her team by winning her 100th game as ACU head coach. The Wildcats defeated Eastern New Mexico (73-65) Tuesday to help their coach reach that historic mark. The game against the ENMU Zias also was the Wildcats’ LSC South Conference opener and it brings the team back on a positive note after two back-to-back defeats against Central Oklahoma (68-67) Jan. 8 and Northeastern State (83-62) Saturday.
Lavender was excited about her historic 100th win against ENMU and was pleased her team found victory in its conference opener.
“To me, it’s just another win,” Lavender said. “Having just started conference play, that’s my focus, and I’m glad to be 1-0. I guess I’m glad to get 100 wins before 100 losses.”
The Wildcats will play 11 of their next 12 games against LSC South opponents, so the squad is entering a crucial part of its season. The teams next game is Saturday afternoon against West Texas A&M in Canyon. The next chance to see the team at home will be when the Wildcats play host to the Rambelles of Angelo State Jan. 24. Angelo State, like ACU, has a 9-6 record and figures to be hungry for a victory in Moody Coliseum next weekend.