After two-straight losses the Wildcats are back on track, thanks in large part to another dominant double-double performance from junior Jaren Lewis.
Lewis posted his second-straight 15-plus point, 15-plus rebound game and third-straight double-double with 20 points and 17 rebounds in Saturday’s 80-69 win. Lewis also had two three-pointers early in the second half to give ACU a cushion after Incarnate Word had cut a 16-point lead to just nine.
“Everybody is just locked in right now,” Lewis said. “And we realize the importance of every game. Everyone is finding that extra gear now that the season is winding down. I’ve definitely found mine and my teammates have put me in positions to succeed.”
But the Wildcats dominated the majority of the game and never trailed after grabbing the lead at 12-10 on a dunk by junior Hayden Howell. ACU eventually build a sizable halftime lead at 44-28, and the difference dipped below double digits just once in the second half.
The Wildcats biggest lead came with just under seven minutes left in the game, after senior Drake Green poured in eight-straight points and gave ACU a 68-49 advantage. Green finished with 11 points and was one of four Wildcats to finish with double figures, including grad transfer Tevin Foster with 17 and Howell with 12.
Junior Jaylen Franklin nearly joined the double-digit scoring finishing with nine points, but he also dished out a team-high seven assists. Franklin said this was a much needed win for the team moving forward and the assists were a result of attacking the basket more aggressively.
“It was really important and we harped on that all week. I think that’s why we came out the way we did and I loved it,” Franklin said. “We really came together at practice and noticed that nobody could stop us and how athletic we are if we attack the basket. We knew that it would open up the three-point line for our shooters.”
With the win the Wildcats are 7-6 and tied with Lamar for seventh-place in the conference. ACU does hold the seeding tiebreaker over Lamar thanks to a 77-71 earlier this season when the two teams met. Meanwhile, UIW falls to 0-12 and sits in 12th, near the bottom of the conference standings with Northwestern State.
The Wildcats will return to action Saturday, looking to avenge an early season loss to Southeastern Louisiana at home. ACU has just five games remaining on the schedule and is half a game back of Central Arkansas for sixth place.
“The win helps us get back on the right track and it also gives us some more confidence heading down the final stretch of conference play,” Lewis said. “We know every game is big from here on out because we want to make it to Katy.”