After a week off for finals, the Wildcats won their 18th straight home game in a blowout victory 73-56 against the Drexel Dragons on Saturday.
The Dragons were a 16 seed in the NCAA Tournament last year but lost to one seed Illinois 78-49 in the first round. The Dragons defeated the Wildcats in 2019 86-83 in overtime at Drexel. However, first-year head coach Brette Tanner developed a game plan to secure revenge against the Dragons.
“We talked a lot about that 2019 game this week and we watched a lot of that game this week,” Tanner said. “I even texted Payten Ricks, who had 29 in that game and led our team in steals, if he could come back and help us tonight but unfortunately he couldn’t. We knew we were going to have a good team here and we wanted to take care of business at home.”
The Wildcats took a commanding 35-22 lead at halftime against the Dragons. The half ended with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from senior guard Mahki Morris. The Wildcats continued their first-half momentum and stretched their lead to a final score of 73-56.
“It’s important to them to have ACU on their chest,” Tanner said. “When you have guys in the locker room that care about the jersey they wear then you have a chance to do special things. I’m very fortunate in my first year to have a locker room that cares about Abilene Christian being on their jersey.”
Junior forward Yuot Gai slammed home an alley-oop in the second half to help spur the Wildcats on toward their sixth straight win. Gai is one of the five newcomers for the Wildcats after spending the past two seasons at South Plains College but is originally from Melbourne, Australia. Gai finished the night with seven points.
“I’m just trying to adapt to American basketball,” Gai said. “Me and Reggie have a connection that just clicks. I didn’t even think he was going to throw it up, so I went up there and I thought I was a bit late, caught it, hoped for the best and threw it in.”
Leading the team in scoring by the end of the night was senior guard Coryon Mason, who tied his career-high with 21 points. He also passed his career-high in made 3-pointers in one game, finishing the night with four of them.
This was also the lowest number of turnovers forced for the Wildcats this season with only 15. Despite the low turnover margin, the Wildcats used their defense to force a 17.2 percent 3-point shooting night for the Dragons.
“Bottom line is our defense is always there and we talk about that all the time,” Tanner said. “You’re going to go through shooting slumps and some nights you’re not going to be able to shoot it at all but as long as your defense is there then you have a chance. Our guys are starting to feel how good they can be but we’ve got a long way to go.”
The Wildcats have now won six straight after starting the season 0-2 and haven’t lost a home game since March 3, 2020 against Stephen F. Austin 77-72.
“We don’t care if we play at home, road, we’re just trying to win the game,” Tanner said. “I told our guys that it doesn’t get any easier. However, the Teague Center is a special place. We take pride in playing here and our guys laid the floor.
Next up for the Wildcats are the California State Bakersfield Roadrunners (4-2) on Wed. at 7:30 at the Teague Special Event Center and broadcast live on ESPN+.