In their first conference game the season, the Wildcats earned a win on the road again the defending Southland Conference regular-season champions, 73-51.
“We had a really slow start today,” said head coach Julie Goodenough. “This past week was so disrupted with our first two conference games being postponed and practicing with a skeleton crew this week. I was proud of our players not putting their heads down when we faced adversity today, whether it be foul trouble or being exhausted.”
Nearly a month after their last game against Stetson, ACU had a rough start to the game. The Wildcats’ starters quickly got into foul trouble, and they struggled with converting on the offensive end. Then, after trailing 20-13 in the second quarter, the Wildcats went on a 19-3 run to take the lead and started the second half with an 11-0 run, helping them take control for the remainder of the game.
Most of the runs were fueled by players off the bench, who scored 30 of the Wildcat’s points.
“Our players off the bench were ready when their numbers were called,” said Goodenough. “We had all five starters on the bench at one point, and we had five reserves in at one point. They were the ones that got the lead back for us and gave us a double-digit lead heading into halftime. And for me as a coach, it was really good to see what all of our players can do and are capable of.”
Along with the players off the bench, leading the way in scoring was senior forward Alyssa Adams. After two strong performances at the Hatters Classic, Adams set a new career-high with 26 points while having her third-consecutive double-double with her 10 rebounds.
This performance came after Adams had not practiced with the team for 10 days straight.
“She was phenomenal,” said Goodenough. “We as a program have a one-word challenge to help motivate the players for the year. Alyssa presented our word to us just the other day, and it is carpe diem, to seize the day. She knows her days are numbered, and she wants to make the most of every opportunity, and she did that today.”
Another player who was crucial to ACU’s success was junior guard Paige Emborsky. With her 11 points, she was the only other Wildcat to score in double digits in this game. Emborsky also brought in five rebounds, two steals and one assist. Sophomore center Sarah Griswold was important to the Wildcats’ success, scoring eight points, two rebounds and one block.
“Paige came in and did what she does well,” said Goodenough. “We ran some sets for her, got open 3-pointers, and she knocked them down, which served as a huge spark for us. Sarah came in and hit some shots early in the first quarter to help get the burden off our back and scored some buckets in the second half that helped us as well.”
At the beginning of the game, the Wildcats struggled to get on the board, only scoring 12 points in the first quarter. But ACU finally found their rhythm offensively in the second and third quarters, going on a significant run each quarter. By the time the game concluded, the Wildcats had shot 44 percent from the field and only 29 percent from the 3-point line.
One of the biggest factors in the Wildcats’ win was their defense. They held the Islanders to 33 percent from the field, and they did not make a single shot from behind the 3-point line. ACU also tallied 41 rebounds, 28 of those being defensive rebounds, 14 steals and two blocks.
The Wildcats are scheduled to play their first conference game at home on Jan. 16 against the Southeastern Louisiana Lady Lions. The game will tip-off at 1 p.m. and will be streaming on ESPN+.
“Since school is starting, it will be nice for our players to get into a routine this week,” said Goodenough. “We’ll probably take Wednesday off since we usually have games on that day so we can have fresh legs. But we will come back on Thursday so that we can get ready for Southeastern Louisiana.”