The men’s basketball team recorded a season-low 51 points against one of the top teams in the Southland Conference Monday night. The Wildcats shot 33 percent from the field and went 6-23 from three in the 72-51 loss against Sam Houston State.
ACU now sits below .500 in conference play for the first time this season, at 3-4 and 8-12 overall. The Bearkats improve to 6-2 and 11-10, with the six conference wins tied for second-most among Southland squads.
The 51 point output is the lowest scoring total for ACU since its season finale game with Texas A&M-Corpus Christi last season, in which the Wildcats scored 27 points on 19% shooting.
“We didn’t hit shots, that’s really all there is to it,” head coach Joe Golding said. “We got good looks but we just couldn’t get anything to fall. I was proud of the effort there in the second half, but we’ve got to find a way to stay in games, even on rough shooting nights.”
Coming off another rough shooting night in their previous game against rival Incarnate Word, the Wildcats failed to shoot at least 40 percent from the field in their second-straight game. But it wasn’t because they couldn’t get shots up, ACU just could not get anything to go down.
Sam Houston, almost identical to ACU, has averaged 73 points against during league play, which sits just above middle of the pack in the Southland. The Wildcats were able to find open looks and run their offense, but there’s little a team can do when a disastrous shooting night is in the cards.
Freshman guard Jaylen Franklin, ACU’s leading scorer at 15.5 points per game, was a non-factor in this one. Franklin picked up two early fouls within the first five minutes of the game, and picked up his third with just under seven minutes to go in the first half, forcing him to sit the remainder of the way. He received his last two fouls with 12 minutes left in the game, ending his night with two points in 14 minutes.
“J-Frank was never in the game,” Golding said. “That hurt us from the get go. But we’ve got to learn how to play without him when he’s out of the game.”
Seniors Parker Wentz and Duran Porter finished in double-digits for the Wildcats. Wentz poured in 17 points on the strength of four three-point baskets. With 11 games remaining, Wentz would need to average four makes a game to become ACU’s all-time leader in three-point makes. Porter was solid, scoring 14 points on 5-7 shooting, while grabbing a team-high six rebounds.
For the Bearkats, it seemed that for as hard as it was for ACU to make a shot, it was equally hard for Sam Houston to miss. SHSU finished at the 48 percent clip, but was over 50 percent for much of the game. In addition, the Bearkats sank 8-18 attempts from deep (44%), while only averaging 33 percent as a team for the year.
The Wildcats kept pace with the Bearkats to start the game. After a three-point make from senior guard Jalen Little, the score was knotted up at 10 a piece. Sam Houston would find the rhythm from deep, ripping off a 9-0 run to make it 22-13 with over seven minutes to play in the half. The Wildcats were held scoreless in the final four minutes of the first half, while the Bearkats would ride an 8-0 run into halftime, up 34-19.
ACU, needing a shot in the arm, cut the deficit to 11 after a three-point make and jump shot from freshman forward Jaren Lewis and a steal and score from Wentz to make it 37-26 after two minutes of action in the second half. Wentz would hit a three at the 16:09 mark, and that would be the last score for the Wildcats for the next six minutes, until Lewis hit a free throw to make it 56-30 Sam Houston.
The Wildcats will host Lamar (2-6, 10-10) in one of their bigger games of the season. A win would move ACU back even at 4-4 in conference and continue what has already been a strong season for this unique group of talent and experience.
The key for this squad is to learn how to win on the road. ACU is just 1-9 in arenas not called Moody. On the plus side, the Wildcats have six home games remaining and five road games left, and end the season with a three-game homestand. Moving forward, consistency, like with any team or sport, is a priority.