The men’s basketball program could not find a way to pull out the win Saturday night, as the Wildcats fell in the final minutes in Hammond, Louisiana, 55-54. The Southeastern Louisiana Lions scored on a jumper to go up by three with a minute remaining. ACU would then be sent to the line, and sink both free throws, making it just a one-point game.
With seven seconds to go, the Wildcats recovered possession on a missed SELU shot, and senior LaDarrien Williams drove the lane but could not get a shot up over the collapsing defense as time expired.
The Wildcats led 33-28 at the half, after the Lions scored in the final seconds on a floater to end the first half. SELU would start the second half on a 14-5 run to make it 42-37 with 11 minutes left in the game. The Wildcats would retake the lead on a Williams jump shot, making it 48-46 ACU with 6:15 left. Sophomore forward Riley Payne would make two clutch plays down the stretch for ACU, drawing two offensive fouls on the Lions to void scores by SELU.
ACU pushed its lead to five after junior guard Parker Wentz sank one of his four three-point baskets to make it 51-46 with 4:15 to go. The Lions would respond with a score in the paint to tie the game, and then take the lead with an ACU turnover and fast-break layup on the following possession to make it 53-51 Lions with 2:20 left in the game.
The Wildcats missed a key opportunity with Wentz missing an important free throw with 1:30 left, keeping the score 53-52 Lions. Both teams would tack on final points, but it wouldn’t be enough for the Wildcats to overcome.
Wentz led ACU in scoring with 22 points, including 4-7 three-point shooting and two steals. Junior forward Austin Cooke recorded his second double-double of the season with 10 points and a career-high 13 rebounds. Seniors Harrison Hawkins and Williams combined for just nine points on 3-14 shooting.
The Wildcats as a team shot over 50 percent in the first half, but only 35 percent in the second half. They were 6-15 from three and held the Lions to 2-9 from downtown. The Lions outmatched the Wildcats inside, scoring 30 points in the paint and added 20 points off of ACU turnovers.
With the loss, ACU moves to 9-17 and 3-10 in conference. It is now the Wildcats’ 10th consecutive loss, who have not won a game since their 95-81 win over Northwestern State in Natchitoches, Louisiana. After starting out the conference portion of their schedule 3-0, they have fallen to 12th place in a conference of 13 teams. Unlike most of their losses, the Wildcats battled to stay in the game in the second half, no moment more evident than when Wentz dove for a loose ball with under a minute to go, but just missed his grip, resulting in a SELU basket.
The Wildcats have five games left on this year’s schedule, two at home and three on three away. Their next game will be against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, who sit fourth in the conference at 14-12, 9-5. Last week, the Islanders ended the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks’ 33-game conference winning streak with a 71-63 win in Corpus Christi.
Tipoff is set for Tuesday at 7 p.m. in Moody Coliseum.