The Wildcats trailed by three at halftime, but weren’t able to keep up with the Houston Baptist Huskies Monday night in Southeast Texas. ACU fell 77-61 to HBU and extended its losing streak to six games, the longest under head coach Joe Golding. Wildcats move to 9-13 and 3-6 in conference play.
ACU was down 50-47 with 8:43 left in the game after sophomore Riley Payne scored his career-high 11th point of the game on a jumper. The Huskies would go on a 27-14 run over the next five minutes to extend the lead to double digits and ultimately sink the Wildcats’ chances of winning.
“We didn’t shoot the ball very well tonight, we missed a lot of open looks that I thought should have gone down but that’s just how it goes some games,” Golding said. “I was proud of us early on, we were shooting well and we hung in the game. But turnovers at the end of the first half and then all through the second half just made things difficult.”
The Wildcats committed 14 turnovers for the entire game, with 10 of those coming in the second half. As a team, they shot 41 percent from the field and were 4-16 from three. The Wildcats did put in 21 points off of Huskies turnovers, but were outmatched in the paint, being outscored 54-26.
Senior LaDarrien Williams led ACU with 16 points on 5-9 shooting and a perfect 5-5 from the free throw line. Twelve of his 16 points came in the second half, but it wasn’t enough to keep ACU close in the end. Junior Austin Cooke was the story of the first half, scoring 10 of his 15 total points in the opening 20 minutes of play. Cooke was 3-6 from deep and added five rebounds. Payne finished with a career-high 12 points on 5-6 shooting.
Senior Harrison Hawkins was the fourth Wildcat to finish in double digits, dropping 10 points on 5-12 shooting after pouring in a career-best 33 points on 11-15 shooting the game before against Lamar. Junior Parker Wentz continued to struggle from the field. Wentz finished with two points on 1-9 shooting and was 0-4 from the three-point arc, which he currently leads the conference in. Since his 29-point outburst against Northwestern State five games ago, Wentz has not reached double digits and is averaging 6.6 points per game and shooting just 22 percent from the field.
The loss pushes the Wildcats losing streak to six, something that hasn’t happened to the program since the 2010-’11 season, when the Wildcats dropped six in a row, and then followed it up with a seven-game losing streak later on in the year.
For the second consecutive game, ACU got out to a slow start, allowing HBU to jump out to a 13-2 lead in the opening minutes of the game. The Wildcats answered back with a 16-8 run to make it 21-18 HBU with 5:00 left in the first half after Payne grabbed an offensive rebound and scored on a layup. The Wildcats were dominated 38-26 on the glass, but grabbed 11 offensive rebounds as a team. The Wildcats would trail 30-27 at halftime after being down by less than five for the majority of the end of the half.
“We came out in the second half and didn’t play well, we let them get comfortable and before you know it we’re looking at a seven, eight point deficit,” Golding said. “We fought back, got it to around one and two, but we could never get over that hump.”
Houston Baptist was led by junior guard Anthony Odunsi, who finished with 20 points on 7-11 field goal shooting and was 6-6 from the charity strike. Freshman center Josh Ibarra chipped in a career high 19 points and 10 rebounds with 9-10 shooting for the game. At 6 feet 10 inches, ACU didn’t have the size to contain the big man.
The Wildcats will come home to Abilene this weekend to take on Southeastern Louisiana, who sits toward the bottom of the conference at 5-15 and 2-5 against Southland foes.