The Wildcats faced off against Central Arkansas in Conway for their final road game of the season and topped the Bears 67-55 to earn their 23rd win, tying the regular season record set by the 1979-80 team.
ACU’s victory also earned the team a first-round bye in the Southland tournament which means it will finish no lower than fourth in the conference standings.
Today’s win puts the Wildcats at 12-4 in conference and 23-6 overall. The Bears slip to 6-10 in Southland play and 11-18 overall moving them just outside a spot in the postseason tournament at ninth place.
After six minutes of play, the Wildcats looked sluggish as they fell behind 17-6. From this point on, however, ACU never fell behind by double-digits again as the team fought its way to a 39-37 lead at halftime.
In the second half, it was all Wildcats as they jumped ahead by 14 (59-45) nearly midway through. ACU didn’t show any signs of letting up as the men kept the margin at 12 points or higher the rest of the way.
Junior guard Payten Ricks said he the result of Saturday’s game was special to share with his team.
“It was a special win just to see the fight that we have in us and the way we stick together to fight back and win a game when we are down,” Ricks said. “It says a lot about our unity which is why we are able to win games like that.”
Senior forward Jaren Lewis was the leading scorer for the men with 16 points and added nine rebounds with two assists.
Coming off a six-steal performance against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Wednesday, Lewis played tight defense once again as he came away with three steals against the Bears. He’s now had at least two steals in the last five games.
Senior guard Jaylen Franklin also turned in a productive stat line with 12 points, eight assists, six rebounds and three steals. Ricks also finished in double-digits with 11 points.
Overall, the men shot 45 percent from the field and made ten three-pointers out of 24 attempted (42 percent).
The Wildcats are now left with two remaining regular season games, both being at home against Stephen F. Austin and Incarnate Word. They will attempt to break the regular season wins record as well as clinch a two-round bye to put them in the semifinals of the Southland tournament automatically.
Ricks said the team will have to take the last two games one step at a time.
“We have to make sure we play harder than SFA and UIW and do all the little things to win these next two games,” Ricks said. “If we stick to the game plan and trust each other then we will give ourselves a chance to win both games.”
ACU will be playing SFA Tuesday night, a team they fell to in heartbreaking fashion earlier in the season after giving up a seven-point lead in the closing seconds.
Game time is set for 7 p.m. and can be viewed on ESPN+.