The Wildcats forced 23 turnovers and held Texas to a season-low 52 points in their first NCAA Tournament victory in school history Saturday night.
“We showed tremendous heart tonight, a ton of adversity all night long, couldn’t get the ball to go in the basket, couldn’t find a way to score, but just continued to guard and found a way to get on the offensive glass,” said head coach Joe Golding. “So just an incredible win for our university and for our basketball team.”
Junior forward Joe Pleasant posted 11 points and eight rebounds on 4-for-9 shooting Saturday night, but no points were more important than two made free throws with 1.2 seconds remaining to put the Wildcats over the Longhorns, 53-52.
“It’s an incredible feeling for the whole team,” Pleasant said. “We were real excited about this game, excited that we got an opportunity to play a good program, a good team like Texas and it feels even better to get a win like this.”
ACU (24-4, 13-2) is the first 14-seed to advance to the Round of 32 since 2016 (Stephen F. Austin). Despite shooting just 30% as a team, the Wildcats relied on their defense to extend their run into the tournament.
Golding said that he believed Pleasant would hit both free throws to take the lead. Pleasant shot 59% from the free throw line on the season, the worst on the team.
“We talked about what we were going to do when he made them both,” Golding said. “I knew he was making them. He works harder than anybody in our program. He lives in the gym. He’s there every day working on his game.”
The Wildcats made the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history back in 2019 but suffered a blowout loss to Kentucky. Pleasant said this trip and team is different.
“I felt like two years ago we were just kind of happy to be there,” Pleasant said. “It was first time experience, and this team, we were ready to take on another challenge, not just to be here, but to compete and try and get some wins down here.”
Texas (19-8, 11-6 Big 12) drops its fourth-consecutive loss in the Round of 64 dating back to 2015.
“Just really feel for our guys right now because up until tonight we had a phenomenal season, and this obviously isn’t the way that any of us envisioned it ending, but this is one of the facts of the NCAA tournament,” said head coach Shaka Smart. “One team gets to stay, and one team goes home.”
The Wildcats advance to the Second Round to face UCLA Monday at 4:15 p.m. at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the home of the Indiana Pacers. The game will air on TBS.
“We’re going to have to get them focused,” Golding said. “Obviously our guys, they’re excited right now, but we have to get back to the hotel. It’s almost 1 o’clock in the morning. We got a long night ahead of us as a coaching staff.”