For the third time this week, the women’s basketball prepared to play a Southland Conference opponent, and for the third time the Wildcats came out on top; this time with an 80-70 victory over the University of New Orleans Privateers.
After the Privateers cut the lead to five on the first basket of the fourth quarter, it looked as if the Wildcats were going to have another nail-biter on hand. But after sophomore Alyssa Echols scored a layup to make it 67-60, junior guard, and Southland Conference player of the year candidate Alexis Mason, took control.
Mason rattled off back-to-back three-pointers, forced a steal and dished out a sweet assist to fellow junior Suzzy Dimba and before New Orleans could answer back the lead was 15 points. The Privateers were able to close the gap at 80-69, but a banked in three from freshman forward McKenzie Martin with 1:40 left sealed the deal.
“Its been a long nine days without a day off and for our players to be able to play with the effort and intensity they did tonight was pretty impressive,” head coach Julie Goodenough said.
Mason led the way for the Wildcats with a game-high 21 points, five assists and four steals. Dimba contributed 14 points in 39 minutes to go along with a well-rounded performance of four rebounds, three assists, five blocks and four steals.
Echols and Martin each added five points off the bench, along with sophomore Sierra Allen, who contributed five points as well. Senior Whitney West-Swinford inched closer to the three-point record, as she scored 15 points on 3-5 shooting from behind the arc.
The Wildcats controlled most of the game leading for 39 out of the 40 minutes, but UNO hung around mustering small scoring runs here and there to keep the game manageable until ACU’s late 8-0 run.
For the second game in a row ACU won the turnover battle, as it converted 17 Privateer turnovers into 25 points, while the Wildcats turned the ball over just 12 times, allowing only 14 points in return.
ACU did get outscored off the bench and out rebounded significantly, giving up 49-15 and 36-23 advantages respectively. However, the Wildcats did hold the conference’s second leading scorer to just 10 total points, and forced her to shoot 0-6 from deep.
“We’ve had a lot of experience winning in desperate situations, so we’re able to learn from those whether they were mistakes or good things that we did previously, we’re able to use those in the future,” Dimba said.
The win preserves the Wildcats perfect home record, but more importantly drops their magic number to one, as ACU needs just one more victory to clinch at least a share of the Southland Conference regular season championship.
Saturday’s matinee was the first of three home games the Wildcats will play in their season finale. Each of ACU’s last two games will be rematches, with Incarnate Word coming to town Wednesday night. The Wildcats defeated the Cardinals 86-71 in their first meeting earlier this season.