While many were in their post-Thanksgiving turkey comas, the men’s basketball team was in action in Campbell, North Carolina where it took home the Creek Classic Tournament Championship with a 2-1 performance.
The Wildcats began the weekend against the tournament host in Campbell University, who touts one of the nation’s best mid-major scorers in Chris Clemons. Clemons entered the game averaging 27.7 points per game, but ACU’s defense limited him to just 1-of-8 shooting from beyond the arc and 16 points. This played a large role in the Wildcat’s 46-35 halftime lead, but ACU also posted a blistering 65.5 percent shooting percent and hit five of its first six three point attempts.
But the second half was a different story for the Wildcats. The Fighting Camels held ACU to a 31 percent field goal percentage and forced overtime with a game-tying three-pointer from Marcus Burk with 2.7 seconds left. Burk hit a buzzer-beater at the end of the first half to cut into the lead as well. However, the Wildcats were able to outscore Campbell 15-10 in the overtime period, led by seven points from sophomore center Jalone Friday to secure an 85-80 win. Overall, Junior Jaren Lewis led the offensive with 17 points and 10 rebounds.
In the second game of the tournament against South Carolina-Upstate, ACU got off to another solid start, but eight first half threes gave the Spartans a 42-37 lead at the half. The Wildcats began the second half on a 6-0 to take a 43-42, but again USC-Upstate responded, this time with a 7-0 run. The Spartans would not trail again in the contest holding on for the 88-78 win.
Entering the final game of the tournament at 1-1, the Wildcats still had a shot at the tournament title with a win and a USC-Upstate loss. ACU upheld its end of the bargain with a 88-83 victory over MAC competitor Bowling Green. The Wildcats led by 20 points from Friday and 17 from Lewis sealed the back-and-forth affair at the free throw line. Leading 84-83 with 16 seconds left, graduate transfer Tevin Foster and junior B.J. Maxwell each knotted perfect trips at the line to hand the Falcons their first loss of the tournament.
A win by Campbell, 93-74 over USC-Upstate in the final game of the weekend then clinched the tournament title for the Wildcats.
“I think the key to success for us this weekend was our ability to battle through some adversity,” Lewis said. “We were trying to bounce back from a tough loss to Lipscomb last week and we responded positively in North Carolina. The games were tough and we had to withstand some tough play and comebacks from the teams we played this weekend, but it was a good experience for the team and we came out with a winning record in the tournament.”
At the conclusion of the tournament, Franklin was named to the all-tournament after averaging 10.3 points and four assists per game, and Lewis was awarded the tournament’s MVP award for averaging 16.7 points and 6.7 rebounds over the weekend.
“For me personally it was important to trust the game plan and trust my teammates and things ended up working in my favor because of that,” Lewis said. “The coaching staff had great game plans all weekend and my teammates executed and made big time plays in order for us to leave with a 2-1 record in the tournament.”
Next up for the Wildcats is a match up with Schreiner this Saturday in Moody Coliseum. ACU will look to add to an early season resume of 4-3.