If you’re a sports fan, you understand that March Madness, says women’s basketball head coach Julie Goodenough, is “indeed madness.”
“We’ve talked about for years now when we get a chance to qualify for the NCAA Tournament, but I don’t really think that anyone could predict what it’s really like,” Goodenough said.
The Wildcats are riding high this week as the women’s basketball team clinched its first berth in the NCAA Tournament in program history. They did so by knocking off the Islanders of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in the Southland Conference Championship 69-68. With the win, the Wildcats were guaranteed a spot in the tournament.
Goodenough emphasized the importance of playing in the tournament for the first time.
“We’re just so excited,” she said. “This is new experience for our program and for our fans. You can’t just walk into any building on campus or any store in town without someone talking about the buzz of the men and women’s team going to the NCAA tournament. It’s a really big deal for our program, but for ACU and for the Abilene community as well.”
Saturday, the men’s team also clinched their first appearance in the tournament, defeating New Orleans in the conference tournament, 77-60.
Goodenough joked about a plan to psyche out the team’s Baylor opponents.
“We’re going to disguise our male scout team as players, and we feel like that’s the best game plan,” she said.
Junior center Lexi Ducat has been one of many key factors leading to the team’s success. She’s averaging 11.1 points and 6.3 rebounds per game.
“This moment is completely surreal,” Ducat said. “We’ve been talking about and planning this since June as team. Its been a really long season, but the way we just played in the tournament, we have a lot of momentum going in. Come Saturday, we’ll be ready to play.”
Goodenough is well aware how important the upperclassmen are on the team, but she’s impressed with how the younger players have improved throughout the season.
“Its been fun just watching our chemistry develop over the year,” she said. “The freshmen and sophomores definitely have leaned on our junior class and on Sara to lead by example and also to try to interpret situations in the game.”
One of the upperclassmen on the team, Junior guard Breanna Wright led the team with 16 points, seven assists and seven rebounds to cap off impressive tournament play which crowned her as the tournament MVP.
“We knew as a team this is where we wanted to be, and we weren’t going to let anyone take that from us,” she said. “We showed a lot of grit and toughness and never stopped believing we could do it. It feels amazing.”
ACU shot 47 percent in the championship against New Orleans and 11-27 from three. It capped off an explosive scoring weekend in which the Wildcats broke a conference tournament record on Thursday against Central Arkansas for the most three-pointers made in a game.
It’s certainly unfamiliar territory for the Wildcats this weekend as they travel down to Waco. ACU’s toughest opponent they’ve faced so far this season is Texas Tech who embarrassed the Wildcats, 105-54. Baylor, meanwhile, took down the Red Raiders twice this season. Most recently, they beat Texas Tech 100-61.
The Bears are 31-1 on the season, which has put them on the pedestal of women’s college basketball. They’ve been ranked No. 1 in the country for the past eight weeks and are boasting a 23-game winning streak.
Meanwhile, ACU sits at 23-9 on the season. This team is peaking after winning three games in a row in the conference tournament, including against the top seed, Lamar, which had lost only two conference games all season.
As the team prepared to prepared to travel Friday to Waco, Goodenough said she was most looking forward to coaching to team at least one more time.
“We just had such a great weekend in the Southland Conference Tournament, and I was just so proud to be their coach,” Goodenough said. “I can’t wait to do it again at Baylor.”