The Wildcats fell in a hard-fought loss to Nicholls, 67-57, in the second round of the Southland Conference Tournament Thursday.
The Wildcats and the Colonels went back-and-forth throughout the first half, similar to the Wildcats’ most recent matchup against Incarnate Word. Both teams shot relatively consistently from the field and kept their turnovers low, with both having nine apiece by halftime.
Nicholls later went on a 13-0 run in the second half to take an early lead. ACU followed that run with an 11-0 run that went into the fourth quarter to give them a narrow lead, but the Wildcats struggled to keep pace.
“I’m super disappointed, not in the team, but that we weren’t able to win and that we will not be playing tomorrow.” said head coach Julie Goodenough. “We just ran out of gas in the fourth quarter and struggled a lot on both ends of the floor. Nicholls made plays down the stretch, and we didn’t.”
After playing a strong game on Wednesday, freshman guard Taylor Morgan became a bright spot in the Wildcats’ offense. She finished with a career-high 16 points while shooting 56 percent from the field. She also had four rebounds, two steals and two assists.
“I thought I played good today, but there is always stuff that I can do better,” Morgan said. “I went in with the mindset of I was going to play hard, and whatever happens will happen.”
Senior guard Anna McLeod was another bright spot in the Wildcats’ offense. Following her career-high performance on Wednesday, McLeod finished with 19 points, five rebounds and two blocks.
The Wildcats had trouble with turnovers again on Thursday, turning the ball over 18 times.
ACU also struggled with shooting, especially in the final frame. They shot 14 percent from the field in the fourth quarter, while they finished the game shooting 33 percent from the field and 22 percent from the 3-point line.
Goodenough attributed the poor shooting performance to player fatigue.
“We felt our last game in this final 10 minutes of this game,” Goodenough said. “Our shots were short, we were a step behind on defense and we gave up drives on that side of the ball. Those last 10 minutes, we had dead legs that prevented us from getting stops and making our shots.”
With the loss on Thursday, the Wildcats’ season reached its conclusion. Despite the NCAA granting seniors the opportunity to play another season, all of ACU’s seniors opted out of an extra opportunity.
The seniors include McLeod, guard Josie Larson, forward Alyssa Adams, who finished with seven points and six rebounds and Makayla Mabry.
McLeod reflected on her career at ACU after the game came to a close.
“My first year at ACU, the year we won the tournament, I tried my best to get the team better as a practice player,” McLeod said. “Last year was a little bit different since I played, so it felt as though my role has changed through the years. But I have no regrets, and I am proud of how hard I played.”
Along with McLeod, Goodenough looked back at the 2020-2021 season, its difficulties and what she learned along the journey.
“This year, we faced a lot of hard situations, so the team got to practice controlling the controllables,” Goodenough said. “And the great thing about sports is that you develop characteristics that will help you for the rest of your life, and our players did a good job coming back after battles and disappointments and working extremely hard. We accomplished a lot just as young women and as a coaching staff this year, especially when it comes to adversity.”