The men’s basketball team outscored the Portland Pilots, 42-39, in the second half, but it wasn’t enough after a tough first half. The 87-57 loss moves the Wildcats to 2-1 on the season in their first road game of the year.
Senior forward Duran Porter was the only Wildcat in double digits, finishing with 14 points and four rebounds, while shooting an impressive 6-7 from the free throw line. Senior forward Austin Cooke, junior guard Jovan Crnic and freshman guard Jaylen Franklin each scored seven points on a combined 6-22 shooting.
The Wildcats struggled during the first half, hitting just three shots in the opening 20 minutes (3-24). ACU’s last shot of the first half came on a tip-in by Cooke with 9:09 left in the half.
Portland found the bottom of the basket early and often, jumping out to a 20-6 lead halfway through the first half. The Pilots would then blow things open with a 23-5 run to move ahead, 43-11, with five minutes until halftime.
“Obviously we weren’t very good in the first half,” head coach Joe Golding said. “We’ve got a lot of young guys and this was their first road game at a Div. I arena, and we had a bit of the ‘deer in the headlights’ look about us.”
The second half would unfold quite differently for both teams, as ACU found a bit of offensive rhythm, primarily by getting to the free throw line. The Wildcats were 13-20 from the line in the second half, after going 9-12 in the first half. They also bumped up their shooting percentage from 12.5 percent in the first, to 43 percent in the second.
“We challenged our guys at halftime to come out and be aggressive and win the second half,” Golding said. “I was proud of the way we responded to that. Now we have to watch the tape, get better and put this behind us.”
A positive take away for ACU comes from the rebounding battle. With a lack of size in the previous few years, the Wildcats have been drastically outmatched on the boards against Div. I programs. On Sunday night, ACU was only outrebounded by six (40-34). The Wildcats scored 16 points in the paint, compared to 32 by Portland.
The three-point line turned out to be one of the killing factors for the Wildcats. Portland made eight of 13 attempts from beyond the arc in the first half, and added on three more makes in the second. All five of the Wildcats makes from three came in the second half, going 5-19 for the game.
ACU continues its early season road trip with a game against Colorado State. Tip-off is set for Tuesday at 8 p.m. in Fort Collins, Colorado.