The men’s basketball team defeated Denver University 67-61 Thursday evening to earn its first 3-0 start since the Div. I transition with the help of junior guard Payten Ricks’ career-high 23 points.
Ricks said he credits his team for doing its part in the win over the Pioneers.
“First and foremost, we play this game to bring Glory to God,” Ricks said. “Everybody played their role in the win last night, and I’m really proud of this team and how unselfish we are. We have multiple players that can step up on any given night, so that shows the depth this team has from our Freshman to our Seniors. That was a real solid team win against a really good Denver team.”
Both teams went back and forth as the score remained tight for most of the first half. ACU and Denver were tied 8-8 seven minutes into the game and three minutes later, the game was tied at 13 apiece.
It wasn’t until the 5:42 mark that ACU went on an 11-2 run to close the half. The Wildcats took a 30-21 lead into halftime after the strong finish.
In the second half, Ricks started the Wildcats off with a three-pointer to put his team up by 12. This would be the biggest lead of the night for ACU, however, as Denver went on a 12-4 run to come within four at the 13:21 mark.
The Pioneers brought the scoring margin within two twice in the middle of the second half. With 2:54 left to go in the game, Denver had the chance to tie after junior guard Ade Murkey was fouled on a converted layup, putting his team down by only one, but missed the free throw and kept the Wildcats in the lead.
After the missed free throw, ACU outscored Denver 10-2 in the next two minutes to go up 67-58. Sophomore forward Donoven Carlisle hit a three with eight seconds left in the game, but it was too late for a comeback as the Wildcats took the 67-61 win.
Ricks said despite being 3-0, he knows the sky is the limit for this team.
“That was a huge road win for this team as we can learn and continue to build on that,” Ricks said. “We know road wins are really tough to get. This team is super close and we support each other on and off the floor which is why this team is so special. Three games in and we still don’t feel like we have played to our full potential so that’s exciting to know that we can still be playing better even with this 3-0 start.”
Ricks made five three-pointers in the game while adding four assists, four rebounds, one steal and one block.
Senior forward Jaren Lewis scored 19 points in the game and also came away with four rebounds and three assists.
ACU shot 44.9 percent from the field and 41.7 beyond the arc.
The team will next head to Stockton, California for the Tigers Thanksgiving Classic and face Elon Thursday at 3 p.m. (5 p.m. CST). Coverage will air on 98.1 FM.