The Wildcats’ hopes of winning back-to-back conference games for the first time this season quickly vanished at the hands of a red hot Incarnate Word team on Saturday afternoon. ACU shot 39 percent from the field for the game, including going 3-15 over the course of 12 minutes in the first half, en route to a 74-60 loss.
Abilene Christian moves to 3-3 in league play, and 8-11 overall. The Cardinals improve to 4-1, 9-7 with their fourth win in a row.
The Wildcats made nine buckets in both the first and second halves, but couldn’t keep pace with the Cardinals, who have scored over 70 points in every game since the beginning of conference play. 70 appears to be the magic number for the Wildcats, as they’ve lost all but one game in conference play when scoring under 70 points, with the exception of their opener against Central Arkansas, winning 62-61.
Junior transfer Jovan Crnic finished with 14 points while going 4-5 from three in 22 minutes off the bench. Freshman point guard Jaylen Franklin had one of his rougher shooting nights of the season. Franklin got just two of 12 shots to go down in the game, but still finished with 12 points, going 8-10 from the free throw line.
ACU got off to a hot start thanks to senior guard Parker Wentz, who nailed a pair of three point shots to help propel the Wildcats to a 10-2 lead early in the game. From the 18 minute mark to just under the six minute mark in the first half, head coach Joe Golding‘s squad hit just three shots from the field.
Freshman forward Hayden Howelll scored five-straight points for ACU, then Incarnate Word hit a layup at the buzzer to make it 34-27 Cardinals at the break.
The Wildcats improved in all shooting facets of the game in the second half, but it still would prove to be insufficient in stopping the Cardinals at home. UIW shot 64 percent in the second half while scoring 40 points in the final 20 minutes. ACU would face a 17 point deficit after Incarnate Word opened the half with a 14-4 run over the opening five minutes.
With 10 minutes to go, senior forward Austin Cooke hit one of his two threes in the game to make it 55-45 UIW. It would be the closest ACU would get from then on out, as the Cardinals pushed the lead to 20, 70-50, with 4:27 to go.
The Wildcats struggled against the size of Incarnate Word, being outscored inside 36-14, and suffering a -9 rebounding disadvantage (32-23).
Junior forward Derail Green finished with a game-high 22 points on 9-12 shooting, scoring over 20 points for just the second time this season. Senior forward Kyle Hittle, the Cardinal’s leading scorer, put in 19 points, four rebounds and three assists. The first half belonged to Hittle, scoring 14 points on 6-8 shooting, with his only misses coming from beyond the arc.
Sophomore guard Shawn Johnson finished with a double-double of 10 points, 10 rebounds and two steals. The 6-foot-4 guard from New Orleans is not only the top rebounding guard in the conference, he’s also the third overall leading rebounder in the Southland Conference at over seven a game.
The Wildcats, who have not lost back-to-back conference games so far this season, have the daunting task of facing Sam Houston State University Monday night in Huntsville. The game will be broadcasted on the American Sports Network.