The Wildcats got their revenge on Stephen F. Austin in Moody Tuesday evening as they defeated the Lumberjacks 72-58 and claimed the second seed and a two-round bye in the Southland tournament after New Orleans lost to Southeastern Louisiana 81-67 Wednesday night.
After the win over SFA, ACU either needed to win Saturday against Incarnate Word or have the Lions defeat UNO, who held the tie-breaker, in order to clinch the second seed.
With SLU’s win, the Wildcats will officially play on Friday, March 15 at 7:30 p.m. in the semifinal round.
Senior forward Jaren Lewis said a two-round bye will be highly beneficial to the team.
Tuesday’s win for the men also broke the school’s record of regular-season wins (24) as well as conference wins in a season (13).
ACU led the entire first half against SFA and found a double-digit lead with 5:45 remaining. The men took a 14-point lead into halftime (38-24).
In the second half, the Lumberjacks showed life as they were able to close the gap and trail by six (50-44) with 10:47 left in the game. The Wildcats woke back up, however, and went on a 10-2 run to reclaim a 14-point lead. They then cruised to the victory as they kept a double-digit lead the rest of the way.
Head coach Joe Golding said Tuesday’s win helped him feel better after losing to SFA in heartbreaking fashion over a month ago.
“I think it’s a huge win for us,” Golding said. “Obviously it was a gut punch a month ago, so to add the opportunity to get them back today we feel better after winning.”
Senior guard Jaylen Franklin was the leading scorer in the game with 16 points and he also notched a double-double with 10 assists. Franklin went 5-10 from the field and grabbed seven rebounds as well.
Franklin said he excited to be able to lead the team to a win over SFA.
“Since I’ve been here, we haven’t beat them and it felt good to win tonight,” Franklin said. “They’ve been a talented team each of the four years I’ve been here and it felt good to play them in Moody and get the victory for my last season here.”
Freshman guard Damien Daniels also made his presence known with 10 points and seven rebounds. Senior forward Hayden Farquhar and Lewis rounded out the four players who scored double-digits. Farquhar finished with 15 points and Lewis had 13.
ACU now heads into its last game of the year against a struggling UIW team which has a record of 1-15 in conference and 6-23 overall. The Cardinals are coming off a bizarre and rare game where they lost 118-111 to Houston Baptist without overtime.
In the last matchup between the Wildcats and UIW, ACU played impressively on defense and won 68-48 in San Antonio.
The Wildcats will also have their senior day celebration before the game as they honor Franklin, Lewis and Farquhar.
Tipoff will be at 3:30 p.m. and the seniors will walk the court with their families minutes before the game.