Men’s basketball suffered their first “home” loss of the season at the hands of Sam Houston State on Monday night. The 84-71 loss moves ACU to 11-14 overall and 6-6 in conference after just their second home loss of the year.
The Wildcats had to overcome several obstacles in order to defeat Sam Houston. ACU not only was forced to play their home game at the Mabee Complex at Hardin-Simmons University, with Moody Coliseum taken over by annual Sing Song practices, but the team also battled health issues.
In addition, the Bearkats set a program and conference record by going 22-22 from the free throw line. It also is the best accuracy mark in all of Div. I men’s basketball this year.
ACU’s leading scorer Jaylen Franklin missed his first game of the season with the flu and junior forward Jovan Crnic battled through symptoms to play, putting in eight points on 2-7 shooting in 21 minutes of action.
Three Wildcats finished in double digits, compared to Sam Houston, who had all five starters finish with at least 11 points. Senior point guard Jalen Little scored a career-high 19 points on the strength of four three-point buckets and 5-6 shooting from the charity stripe. Little surpassed his previous career-high of 14 points he set in ACU’s last game in a 71-67 win over Lamar in Beaumont.
Freshman forward Jaren Lewis registered his first career double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds. Lewis, who averages 9.1 points per game, finished in double-digits for the first time in five games and missed his career-high of 18 points he set in the season opener against University of the Southwest.
Sophomore guard Isaiah Tripp was lights out from beyond the arc. All of his 12 points came from the three-point, going 4-5 from deep.
The Wildcats played catchup the entire game after taking an early 5-2 lead in the opening minutes. The Bearkats put together a 13-2 run to make it 15-7 with over 14 minutes to go in the first half. After a three-point make, Sam Houston pushed their lead to the largest of the first half at 17 with over two minutes to go.
In the second half, ACU trailed by double-digits for almost all of the final 20 minutes. After going 7-8 from the free throw line in the first half, the Wildcats followed it up with an 8-13 performance in the second half. ACU kept up with SHSU in the second half, scoring 36 points, but couldn’t get stops when it counted, giving up 49 percent shooting for the game.
Turnovers were a problem for the Wildcats, although the 14 turnovers were the team’s lowest since their win against Houston Baptist on Feb. 2. Sam Houston took advantage of the Wildcat’s sloppy play and turned in 17 points off ACU turnovers.
The Wildcats travel to Houston to play the Huskies on Thursday night. After that, ACU will return home to play three of their final four games in Moody Coliseum.