Men’s basketball (3-3) returns to Moody Coliseum Thursday night after a four-game road trip. ACU finished 1-3 on the trip that took them through Oregon, Colorado and Corpus Christi.
“It’s a tough part of the year, a lot of times when you go play these tournaments you’re kind of set up to go 1-3, but it’s certainly not something we were aiming for,” head coach Joe Golding said. “It’s a process of getting everyone on the same page. We played a Colorado State team, a team that will probably be in the top-25 here in a few weeks, really well and had a chance to beat them. We grew from that, but had some really tough shooting nights as well, so it’s a balance of being consistent every game.”
The Wildcats dropped back-to-back games against Portland and Colorado State last week. The 108-100 loss in double overtime against the Rams could be considered one of the best games the program has played over the last few years. Junior Jovan Crnic hit a three-pointer as regulation ended to force overtime. Senior Austin Cooke made his shot from beyond the arc with 6.1 seconds left to force double overtime.
New Hampshire, member of the American East Conference, is 4-2 with losses coming against the University of Connecticut and American University. After going 6-24 two season ago, the Wildcats improved to 19-13 while going 11-5 in conference last year.
“We want to protect Moody, it’s important that when you’re in the position that we are , you have to win home games no matter your opponent,” Golding said. “With so many new guys here, they don’t know the history or the struggles over the past year or two, so they expect us to win every night. And that’s the mindset we want to start driving into our guys and the community.”
UNH returns four starters from last season. Sophomore Tanner Leissner leads New Hampshire with 18 points/game and six boards. He’s played in the first three games of the season, in which he scored 21, 20 and 13 points, but has not seen action since Nov. 13. He was selected to the AEC pre-season team after leading New Hampshire in scoring last year as a freshman at 12.8 points/game.
Junior forward Jacoby Armstrong chips in 15.2 points/game along with 55 percent field goal shooting. Over the last three games, Armstrong put in 26, 22 and 14 points.
As teams, ACU edges UNH in nightly scoring (75-72.3), but lacks in field goal shooting (.46-.43) and three-point shooting (.36-.34). Defensively, New Hampshire holds opposing offenses to under 70 points per game (68.5), while the Wildcats are currently giving up 76.8 points each outing.
Freshmen Jaylen Franklin (12.3 points/game, 49 percent FG) and Jaren Lewis (9.3 points/game, 6.5 rebs/game) continue to play well for ACU in the early part of the season. Franklin scored double-digit points in two of the four games on the road for ACU, while Lewis recorded 12 points, seven rebounds and two blocks against Florida A&M, and 13 points in 21 minutes against Oakland the next day.
Senior Parker Wentz continues to sizzle from beyond the arc. Wentz is shooting 55 percent from three (17-32), on way to averaging 10.5 points/game for ACU. He put in 21 points on 5-9 three-point shooting against Colorado State and was a big reason ACU was in it.
The New Hampshire game will also serve as the fifth-annual Christmas Slam.