ACU dropped its first game of the season Sunday in Philadelphia against Drexel University, 86-83.
In Its first road game of the year, the Wildcats struggled defensively in the first half, allowing 47 points. Drexel shot 59% (13-22) from the field in the first 20 minutes, and went to the free throw line on 18 occasions.
Senior guard Zach Walton led the way for the Dragons. He scored a team-high 22 points on 7-13 shooting and seven rebounds. Junior forward James Butler finished with a double-double on 13 points and rebounds.
Head Coach Joe Golding said this team’s first road test taught them a lot.
“I think it’s a great learning experience,” Golding said. “We didn’t play very well defensively in the first half. We were able to regroup in the second half, and offensively I thought we were OK throughout the whole game.”
There were seven lead changes within the first eight minutes of the game as both teams battled for control. Despite being out-rebounded, 45-22, the Wildcats stayed in the game forcing 24 turnovers.
At the half, ACU trailed 47-42, shooting at a 47% clip (14-30).
Senior guard Payten Ricks was the driving force for the Wildcats offense. He posted 29 points on 10-20 shooting. He also made his presence known on the opposite end with five steals.
Sophomore forward Clay Gayman also made a positive impact, scoring 21 points on 8-9 shooting coming off the bench.
Golding said that he stepped up in a big way with a lot of players in foul trouble.
“Clay stepped in, and I think that’s the most he’s ever played,” Golding said. “He got the opportunity and he played well offensively.”
Early in the second half, ACU went on a 14-4 run to take its first lead since 12:08 in the first half. After Ricks nailed a two-point jumper with 42 seconds remaining, Walton nailed the game-tying shot in the paint to send the game into overtime, 77-77.
Later in overtime, the Wildcats went 2-7 shooting and commit two crucial turnovers in the final minute. Following a Wildcat turnover with 28 seconds left, Walton nailed a three-pointer with just two seconds remaining to seal the game.
Up next, Drexel will hit the road to face the Rutgers Wednesday at 8 p.m. Meanwhile, the Wildcats return to Moody for a tough test with Pepperdine Saturday at 7:30 p.m. The game will air on ESPN3.