The men’s basketball season came to close when junior guard Julian Edmonson’s game-tying three point attempt bounced off the front of the rim, securing the Wildcats 59-56 loss to the University of Incarnate Word last Saturday. The loss leaves the Wildcats with a final regular season record of 11-20 and 2-12 in their first season as members of the Southland Conference.
“I thought the first half was just bad basketball from both teams, it’s hard to play when you really don’t have anything to play for after that game,” head coach Joe Golding said. “The second half was much better, more competitive and we did a good job of staying in the game and fighting.”
The Cardinals finished their season with an impressive 21-6, 9-5 record as the Wildcats played tough, but did not have enough to finish out their season on the winning side.
The Wildcats trailed by as many as nine with 10 minutes left in the game. Edmonson cut the Cardinal lead to two points with just a little more than a minute to play on a layup that put the score at 55-53. After a UIW layup forced the lead four points, sophomore guard and the Southland’s best three-point shooter sank a three to cut the lead to one point with 31 seconds left to play.
Freshman guard Michael Grant would go on to foul and send UIW to the line for one free throw. The miss off the front iron was secured by sophomore forward Austin Cooke and was dished off to Wentz. Wentz drove to the lane looking to give the Wildcats their first lead of the second half, but was blocked and recovered by the Cardinals. Free throws would finish the game and leave ACU with yet another heartbreaking defeat.
“This game was similar to the way our last three to four weeks have been,” Golding said. “We’ve been good enough to be right there at the end and have a chance. We had the ball, down one and then again with the last possession and we just couldn’t get the shot we wanted.”
In typical Wentz fashion, he finished with a high 17 points and five steals in all 40 minutes of play. He came three points short of reaching 20 points, which snapped his five-game streak of recording at least 20 points in a game. Sophomore forward James Pegues provided 12 points and six rebounds off the bench. Rough shooting plagued ACU as Julian Edmonson put in six points on 2-10 shooting, but added three assists and three boards, as the team shot just 38.5 percent from the field for the game.
Incarnate Word received a combined 41 points from senior forward Anthony Horton and junior guard Denzel Livingston. Horton put in 20 points on 10-18 shooting and Livingston chipped in 21 points and five rebounds. Livingston (20.3) finished third in scoring in the Southland Conference. The Wildcats were able to hold sophomore guard Kyle Hittle to just six points, as he averaged 16.3 points per contest, good enough for fifth in the Southland Conference.
The Wildcats will look to build on a solid group of players such as Wentz and Cooke, welcome back junior guards LaDarrien Williams and Harrison Hawkins and look to see what young players like freshman forward Riley Payne and Grant can add to the future of the men’s basketball program.
“What I’m really excited about is that we’re going to bring back a great core for the first time in a long time here at ACU,” Golding said. “They’re going to be here all spring working, getting better individually by getting stronger, quicker and faster. And we’re going to continue to add pieces to the puzzle and get a winning program.”