Despite a career-high 31 points from 5’9″ junior guard Parker Wentz, the men’s basketball team was not able to overcome a hot second half shooting performance from Atlantic 10 conference member Duquesne University, falling at home, 102-81.
“I thought our guys played hard,” head coach Joe Golding said. “I thought our ball movement was a lot better than the last time we played them last year. I like how we played offensively.”
The Dukes, now 2-0, shot 74 percent for the second half, converting 20 of the teams 27 shot attempts, leading to a 56 point second half performance. The Wildcats put up 43 second half points, behind 41 percent shooting, in the teams second loss of the season. Duquesne was led by junior guard Jordan Stevens who had 27 points and was 6-9 from beyond the three point arc.
“They can really shoot the basketball,” Golding said. “I thought in the first half we did a pretty good job of contesting and making things difficult, but in the second half, we got worn down and tired and gave them some open looks and they converted them.”
ACU battled hard in the first half in front of a home crowd of 2,125. The game was tied at 20-20 with just over 7:30 left in the first half, as ACU was able to hold Duquesne early to just 3-10 shooting. The Dukes were able to get to the free throw line early and often, shooting 20 free throw attempts in the first half, compared to the Wildcats’ 12 attempts.
Senior guard Harrison Hawkins and Wentz carried the offensive load in the first half, combining for 28 of ACU’s 38 points in the half. Hawkins, who had 16 of his 17 total points in the first half, finished 6-10 with two three point makes, was non-existent in the second half.
The Wildcats headed into halftime, down 46-38. ACU led by one, 30-29, with under five minutes left in the half. The Dukes would go on a 17-8 run to end the half and take the lead. ACU held the momentum for much of the first half, but was hurt by second chance points and offensive rebounds by Duquesne. A key moment for the Dukes came when they went to the foul line, made the first one, recovered the ball after the second attempt was missed and then hit one of their six three-point baskets in the second half, to push the lead after that four-point possession.
“It’s tough against bigger and more athletic teams, we’d go in for a layup or close shot and they’d block it, get out and run and it would lead to a transition bucket so that’s something we’ll have to work on,” Golding said.
The Wildcats struggled to get the lead under 10 points for much of the first part of the second half. The Dukes were red hot throughout the second half from three, going 6-9 as a team from beyond the arc. Wentz stayed aggressive, scoring 19 of his 31 points in the second half, including sinking four three pointers and going 11-12 from the charity strike.
“He (Wentz) played really well out there tonight,” Golding said. “It’s tough for him in non-conference, since he’s not very big, but the level of effort he puts out every night is unmatched.”
A three by Stevens pushed the Duquesne lead to 91-67 with five minutes remaining in the game to seal the deal for the visitors. Despite being outshot in the second half, the Wildcats were effective at limiting turnovers, only giving it up 11 times for the entire game.
ACU will now look to take on Jarvis Christian College on Tuesday in Moody Coliseum at 7 p.m. With a win, the Wildcats would be able to get back to .500 early into the season.