The men’s basketball team finally got its first taste of March Madness Thursday evening in Jacksonville against Kentucky, and fell to the No. 2 seed 79-44 to cap off a historic season.
Senior forward Hayden Farquhar said the experience was amazing and Kentucky was a tough team to face.
“It was really awesome,” Farquhar said. “To go out there and see the crowd was an experience I’ll never forget. Right off the bat, they were a lot taller than we were and a lot bigger than we were. At the end of the day, that had nothing to do with it. It was just five guys playing five guys. Today they were the better five guys.”
Head coach Joe Golding tipped his cap to Kentucky and said he was happy with his team’s season.
“Yeah Kentucky is all that,” Golding said. “They’re really good, the best team we’ve played this year, them and Texas Tech. We wish them the best of luck. I’m proud of our guys. They didn’t quit. They represented our university and our city in a first-class manner tonight and they’ve done that all year, so I’m extremely proud of them.”
Kentucky got off to a fast start, letting ACU score only once in the first eight minutes and claiming an 18-3 lead. The men were able to outscore Kentucky 7-4 up until the 9:58 mark, however, the Wildcats struggled in the rest of the half as they scored three more points. Kentucky took a 39-13 lead into halftime.
ACU was able to find the bottom of the net more in the first half matching their first half total of 13 points nearly eight minutes into the second half.
The purple Wildcats scored a total of 31 points in the second half but couldn’t find their way back under a 20-point deficit for the rest of the game.
Overall, the men shot 32 percent (17-53) from the field and 22 percent (5-23) from beyond the arc. ACU was able to force more turnovers on Kentucky which ended with 15 while the Wildcats had seven.
Senior guard Jaylen Franklin said the talent his team faced with Kentucky made shots hard to come by.
“It was pretty tough,” Franklin said. “We just couldn’t make shots. We shot 19 percent in the first half and the second half we shot 45. Turning the ball over in the first half really hurt us.”
Kentucky head coach John Calipari said he tried to keep ACU off the three-point line all evening.
“We’re a team that that tries to get you to drive because we can block shots,” Calipari said. “We want you to come to the rim. We don’t want you just shooting threes.”
Senior forward Jaren Lewis went out of his last game showing upperclassman leadership after he finished the game with 17 points off of 7-12 shooting from the field.
Lewis said being able to play in March Madness was an unforgettable experience.
“It was a great experience being out there for the tournament,” Lewis said. “It was nice knowing it was the first time in our school’s history. It was incredible and probably something we’ll never forget.”
ACU finished the season with an overall record of 27-7 after the loss. The Wildcats’ 27 wins tied the school record of wins in a season set by the 1979-80 team.
The men’s basketball season brought many firsts, including a Southland postseason tournament championship win and a trip to the NCAA Tournament. The Wildcats also broke the school record of regular season wins (24) and conference wins (14).
Golding said this is just the beginning of success for ACU basketball.
“It’s the second year we’ve been eligible for postseason play,” Golding said “I’m glad our university can experience this. It’s going to help our program with recruiting. I don’t think this was one of the best seasons, I think it was the best season in school history.”