The men’s basketball team travelled to Commerce with their playoff hopes hanging in the balance, and left the Lion’s den with a 60-57 win.
The victory puts the ‘Cats in the all-important eighth position in the Lone Star Conference, with eight teams qualifying for post-season play.
ACU shut down the Lions in the first half, giving up just 18 points in the first 20 minutes of play. The Wildcats headed into the locker room at halftime with a 30-18 run.
“Our guys just really bought into the game plan,” assistant coach Brian Burton said. “Commerce shot the ball really well at our place last time, so we wanted to make this game less of a shootout. We took longer offensive possessions and surprised them with the zone.”
In the second half, ACU fought off an A&M Commerce team that was surging in front of the home crowd, putting together several runs to narrow the ACU lead. Well-timed buckets from Elliott Lloyd and clutch free throw shooting down the stretch by several men in purple and white finished off the home squad.
“Nothing is more important than free throws when it comes to finishing games,” Burton said. “I think every conference game we have won we have shot free throws well. In a one possession game, free throws are huge.”
Lloyd finished with a game high 15 points and six rebounds. Dosh Simms had another double double with 14 points and 12 rebounds, and Eric Lawton scored 12 points to go along with his four steals.
“Since the first West Texas game, we have been a lot better team since we had Dosh,” Burton said. “I am excited for Dosh, I can’t say enough about who he has been for the program. He is blue-collar and a workhorse for us. The way he is playing really represents who he is.”
The importance of this victory cannot be overstated for ACU, who is searching for their first playoff appearance in five years. Wednesday’s victory sets up an enormous game against Tarleton State in Moody Coliseum on Saturday night at 7:30 p.m.
With a win, ACU will have won twice as many conference games as they did all of last year, with things looking up for head coach Joe Golding and the basketball program.
“The way you build a program is to keep doing it right,” Golding said.
“We have to keep working hard and recruiting good student-athletes and people that ACU can support and be proud of. I think we have done that this year, we have good kids and good guys and I think that the Ws will come. We are playing good basketball and we are not ever going to quit.”