The ACU men’s basketball team finished up their season last week, and although they did not make the Lone Star Conference tournament, the program improved in many ways.
The Wildcats got off to a hot start early in the year winning both of their matchups in the Whitten Inn Classic by double digits. ACU also split a pair of games against Dallas Baptist before conference play began.
ACU got a signature win early in the season, taking down rival West Texas A&M in Canyon for the first time in 14 years with a 59-58 victory.
“We were a better road team it seemed like for most of the year,” assistant coach Jaret von Rosenburg said. “We got away and get those 12 guys together on the road and they were focused.”
From there the Wildcats dropped several heartbreakers in a row, losing five straight conference games. Three of those losses were by a combined five points.
By Christmas break, ACU had lost three members of their rotation due to significant injuries, two of which proved to be season ending injuries.
For the second year in a row, Desmond Woodberry suffered a significant concussion and was unable to return to action. Woodberry was ACU’s best defender and their best perimeter rebounder.
Meanwhile forward Jonathan King was sidelined with a torn ACL, and athletic wing Tyler Rodgers was dealing with mono that he would not get over until the middle of February.
Yet ACU hung tough, welcoming the students back to campus with a win against a talented Incarnate Word squad.
“Coach Burton just put a great game plan together,” von Rosenburg said. “After you beat somebody, it gives you a little more confidence going into the second game.”
The Wildcats would go on to sweep their future Southland Conference foe with another victory against the Cardinals on the road in February.
The ‘Cats ended up finishing the season 12-14 (6-12,) which is the best conference finish that ACU has posted since 2007.
“We are proud of our improvements but at the same time we want to win,” power forward Cornelius Cammock said. “We lost a lot of close games, so felt like we should have been in the conference tournament. But sometimes the ball just didn’t bounce our way.”
The team was head coach Joe Golding’s first recruiting class, in which he completely overhauled the roster with a mixture transfer students and freshmen.
The Wildcats had three players average double figures for the year. Lone Star Conference newcomer of the year Eric Lawton, LSC honorable mention team player Steven Werner and talented shooting guard Elliott Lloyd were all able to score consistently for ACU.
Senior Dosh Simms also finished third the LSC in rebounding with 8.7 boards per game. Lawton finished second in the LSC in scoring at 17.3 points per game and first in three-pointers made per game with 2.3 makes per contest.
As a team, ACU led the conference in three-point shooting percentage at over 40 percent because of their plethora of sharpshooters. Lawton, Lloyd and freshman Parker Wentz all knocked down more than 45 shots from behind the arc.
The Wildcats will head to the Southland Conference in 2013-2014 with a program that is undoubtedly improving every season.
“There is some excitement in the program,” director of basketball operations Cooper Schmidt said.
“The coaches are out on the road recruiting. We are excited to get some players for next year and see how much the returners can improve in the offseason with work in the weight room and on the court.”