Junior guards Payten Ricks and B.J. Maxwell converted on two free throws each in the closing seconds of Wednesday’s matchup with Texas A&M-Corpus Christi as the Wildcats came away with a 78-71 victory.
Coming into the game, the Islanders were right behind ACU in the standings at third place. With the victory, the Wildcats keep ahold of the second place spot at 7-2 in conference play, while Corpus Christi falls to 4-3 in Southland play.
The Wildcats stayed in a manageable lead most of the game and took a 40-33 lead into halftime. In the second half, the men kept building on their lead and eventually stretched ahead by 17 points (61-44) at the 12:28 mark.
In the next six minutes, however, the Islanders pulled off an improbable 20-2 run to move ahead by one (64-63). ACU came back to its senses, however and found themselves up 69-67 with 3:30 left to play.
At the 2:33 mark, Maxwell received a pass from senior forward Jaren Lewis at the top of the arc and hit a clutch three-pointer that was essentially the game winning shot as the men went up 72-67.
Maxwell said he was thankful his teammates allowed him to take such a big shot in the closing minutes.
“I knew I had to be aggressive once I checked back into the game,” Maxwell said. “My teammates had my back and had the confidence in me to shoot that shot.”
The Islanders scored four straight points after Maxwell’s three to climb within one, however, a jumper by Lewis put the Wildcats up by three and two intentional fouls led to the closing free throws by Ricks and Maxwell.
Head coach Joe Golding said he was proud to see his team hang on and figure out a way to win.
“I thought our guys played really well,” Golding said. “I don’t think we played a complete game tonight, but we were able to piece together enough minutes and overall get a win.”
Ricks and Lewis were the leading scorers Wednesday evening with 18 points each. Lewis went 7-11 from the field and grabbed seven rebounds, while Ricks hit five three pointers in the game came away with three rebounds.
Maxwell finished with 16 points in the game and also ended with six rebounds and three steals.
Wednesday’s win in Moody also kept the Wildcats undefeated at home for the season as they improved to 11-0. Golding said he loves seeing the crowd show out every night they play at home.
“I’m very appreciative of the fans for coming out,” Golding said. “I know it’s a Wednesday night, it’s a late game and takes a two-hour block of everyone’s time, so were thankful to the city of Abilene for coming to our games.”
This Saturday, the men will finally enjoy a bye midway through the conference season. The time off will give them a week to prepare for a road match with Lamar next Wednesday and a shot at redemption the following Saturday when they host first place Sam Houston, who they lost to earlier in the season.
Golding said he’s ready to rest and get better in the off week.
“We’ll look at the good and we’ll look at the bad,” Golding said. “We’re going to continue to try work towards the perfect game and get better as we reach February and March.”