The men’s basketball team captured its first conference victory of the year on Saturday with a last second goal tending call against Central Arkansas. With 13 seconds left in the game, UCA scored on a layup that gave them a 72-71 lead with just 4.4 seconds remaining. Sophomore forward Austin Cooke inbounded to sophomore guard Parker Wentz, who drove the length of the court to put up a contested layup at the buzzer. It was blocked but ruled as goaltending, giving ACU the win, 73-72.
“I looked up at the clock and saw we only had four seconds left, so I just wanted to go down and make a play,” Wentz said. “I wanted to try to draw a foul or make something happen.”
The Wildcats had big plays down the stretch from many key role players. With 40 seconds left, junior guard Julian Edmonson came up with a steal to give ACU the ball down by one. UCA fouled Cooke on a shot attempt to send him to the free throw line where he missed both attempts, but secured his own rebound to keep the ACU possession. Wentz drew another foul with 21 seconds remaining and managed to knock down both free throw attempts, giving the Wildcats their first lead of the game since the opening minutes.
“It’s been a tough season so far with injuries and road trips, but we just try to stay on the right path and play our way,” Wentz said. “They’re a great team, I’m glad we got the win, and you know glory to God.”
The Wildcats played catchup for most of the afternoon as they battled to keep pace with the Bears team. Top scoring guards LaDarrien Williams (injury) and Harrison Hawkins (academics) did not play in the game. ACU battled back from a deficit of 12 points and trailed by five with two minutes remaining.
“We were the toughest team for the last two to three minutes and I’m so proud of these guys,” said head coach Joe Golding. “We’ve been through a lot of adversity this year and we’ve got a lot of guys playing major minutes that haven’t seen a lot of time this year, but they refuse to quit and they work hard.”
Wentz led the Wildcats with 21 points on 7-15 shooting and played every minute of the game. He has averaged 39 minutes per game over the past three games for a shorthanded Wildcat team. Freshman guard Michael Grant had his best game of the year with 17 points, 15 coming from the second half and he was a big reason for their comeback. Edmonson played well in his second straight start, putting up 15 points and four steals. Cooke was big on the boards with 10 rebounds and led the team with five assists.
The win snapped ACU’s 27-game losing streak against Div. I opponents. The Wildcats will play the final game of their home stand at 3 p.m. on Saturday in Moody Coliseum against Sam Houston State. The game will be broadcasted on ESPN3.