After a three-game road stretch without redshirt junior center Jalone Friday, the Wildcats defeated Houston Baptist 75-68 Wednesday night with the help of Friday’s 21 points in his return
The Huskies stayed close with the Wildcats in the first half and allowed them to only extend to a seven-point lead twice.
HBU nearly claimed the lead going into halftime, but a jumper by Jaylen Franklin with 29 second left put the Wildcats ahead 34-33 before the half.
The Wildcats held the lead for most of the second half, however, with 7:31 left in the game sophomore Ian Dubose put HBU ahead 61-59 with a three-pointer.
With 3:37 left, ACU worked the score to a tie at 63 after a tip in shot by Jaren Lewis. From that point to the end of the game, the men outscored the Huskies 12-5 to eventually claim the victory.
When up 67-64, redshirt junior B.J. Maxwell hit an important three-pointer with 1:33 left in the game to give his team a comfortable 70-64 lead. Two free throws at the end by Friday and senior forward Jaren Lewis sealed the win for the Wildcats.
Head coach Joe Golding said he was pleased to see his team step up in another tight game.
“It was another Southland Conference game – it seems like every game has come down to the last four minutes,” Golding said. “We were able to make more plays than them down the stretch, and I thought some guys stepped up and made some big plays.”
Wednesday’s victory improved ACU to 15-3 on the year and 4-1 in conference, while the Huskies fell to 5-10 overall and 1-3 in Southland.
Friday finished with 50 percent shooting, making eight of his 16 shots. He also hit two three-pointers in the game and grabbed eight rebounds. Lewis was a perfect four-for-four from the field with a three-pointer and 13 points. Senior guard Jaylen Franklin also had a productive night with seven points, seven assists and four steals.
Golding said it was a big help having Friday back.
“I think he was ready to go tonight, and he knew the guys had his back in the game,” Golding said. “I thought he was good tonight, I was trying to get used to playing with him again, but I thought he had a great second half.”
The Wildcats will remain at home Saturday to host Northwestern State. The Demons sit at 7-10 overall and 2-2 in conference.
Senior forward Ishmael Lane has been the standout player for NSU this season, averaging a team leading 12.1 points per game and 7.6 rebounds per game. He’s also been impressive on defense blocking 28 shots in 17 games giving him an average of 1.65.
The Demons are coming off a victory over No. 1 ranked Southland preseason team Stephen F. Austin on the road last Saturday. NSU was off Wednesday for its bye week and will face ACU for its first game since beating SFA.
Tipoff will be at 6 p.m. in Moody, and coverage can be heard on 98.1 FM.