Senior guard Payton Ricks dealt with adversity early in what would end up being the Wildcats’ sixth-consecutive win.
Just 70 seconds into the game Wednesday night, Ricks was charged with a foul, but it seemed he took the worse of the contact as blood was visible from his face.
“I went to help on defense,” Ricks said. “As soon as he went to make a move, he stopped and his head hit my lip. I knew as soon as it happened that I busted my lip.”
In the following minutes, Ricks was looked over by the staff to stop the bleeding. He would ultimately come back on the court with 15:28 till halftime but picked up a quick second foul, putting Ricks on the bench for the rest of the first half.
“Ricks was in foul trouble a ton, and we still go up 12 at halftime,” Head Coach Joe Golding said. “We got off to a slow start in the second half, but we were able to settle down. I thought this was a great team effort tonight.”
The Wildcats shot 51% (26-51) in rout to an 85-69 victory over Sam Houston State. With the win, ACU secures a first-round bye in the Southland Conference Tournament.
“Early in the season, our offense wasn’t as good as we’d like it,” Golding said. “But over the past three or four weeks, those shots have now been going in.”
Entering the second half, Ricks caught fire from beyond the perimeter. He scored 19 of his 23 points in the second half, shooting 6-10 from the field, five of which were 3-pointers.
“All credit always goes to my teammates,” Ricks said. “Without them, I wouldn’t have the confidence to shoot the way I do.”
After the Bearkats cut the lead to just seven points with 14:23 left to play, ACU responded with a 15-0 run to further extend the lead.
Junior center Kolton Kohl played a large role off the bench. He finished a perfect 4-4 with 12 points and three rebounds. Kohl, in fact, hasn’t missed a field goal in over a week. He’s a combined 10-10 over the past two games.
Sophomore forward Clay Gayman also played a key piece while Ricks was on the bench. Gayman scored the first two points of the game with a two-handed slam and finished with 13 points.
Up next, ACU stays home at Moody Coliseum to face Central Arkansas Saturday at 3:30 p.m. The last time the Wildcats faced the Bears, Ricks drained a last-second jump shot in overtime to come out on top.
“We’re gonna trust the process,” Golding said. “We got to protect home court, so we have to be ready to play and make no excuses.”