ACU returned home for the first time since Nov. 17 on Sunday afternoon, taking down the University of North Texas at Dallas Trailblazers 92-47.
Even before the game started, there were a lot of unknowns for both teams. Initially, ACU was scheduled to play Wright State, but that all changed on Tuesday when Wright State faced COVID-19 protocols and had to cancel their matchup at ACU.
Then after 20 hours and calling 25 different basketball programs, ACU finally found their Sunday opponent, the UNT-Dallas Trailblazers.
“We were very grateful to find UNT-Dallas who were able to come this week,” said head coach Julie Goodenough. “They have been in finals all week just like our program, so we are really appreciative for them bringing their team out here.”
As for Sunday’s matchup, the Wildcats got out to an early lead at the beginning of the first quarter, but the Trailblazers were able to come back, causing an 18-15 score in the Wildcats’ favor.
Everything changed in the second quarter. The Wildcats jumped out to a hot start and eventually ended the quarter shooting 75 percent from the field and 60 percent from the 3-point line. After plenty of examples of the Wildcats turning good defense into great offense, the team outscored the Trailblazers 31-9 and headed into the locker room at halftime with a 49-24 lead.
“We’re really proud of how our team responded in the second quarter,” Goodenough said. “We really raised the intensity level of our defense and forced them into some turnovers. That then allowed us to get some uncontested shots in transition, which really helped us build that lead.”
Throughout the remainder of the afternoon, the Wildcats continued to force UNT-Dallas turnovers and used high-pressure defense to win the game.
ACU led in terms of turnover margin, with the Trailblazer having 19 turnovers on the day when the Wildcats only had three. Off of the turnovers, Goodenough’s squad earned 30 points, as well as 20 points from fast break opportunities. Meanwhile, the Trailblazers were held to 31 percent shooting from the field and 29 percent from the 3-point line, while ACU shot 49 percent and 39 percent, respectively.
“Our players are starting to get really serious about defense,” Goodenough said. “It’s always really fun when you get defensive stops and turnovers plus being able to score in transition. If you allow the other team to score, you give them time to set up their defense, so I think we are starting to understand how to score in primary breaks a lot easier. ”
As for offense, there were four Wildcats in double-digits who helped lead the way. One was redshirt junior center Sarah Griswold with 15 points and four rebounds, along with graduate transfer forward Emma Middleton, who added 12 points and two steals.
Leading the team offensively in her fifth-straight double-digit outing was graduate transfer forward Jaime Bonnarens. She finished Sunday’s game tying her season-high of 19 points, while also leading the team in rebounding with eight of them.
“As a team, we are always ready to compete, and we want to compete against different competition besides ourselves,” Bonnarens said. “We have played against each other for so long, so it’s fun to go out and play different competition.”
The last Wildcat in double figures was senior guard Madi Miller, who finished with 14 points and also led the team with six assists and grabbed seven rebounds.
After the game, Miller talked about how she takes pride in giving her teammates the ball and also giving the best chance she can for all her teammates to score.
“My teammates are always in the right spot,” Miller said. “They’re always working hard to put themselves in good positions for me to be able to give them the ball. Kudos to them always making the shot, I always appreciate that and always get hyped to be able to give them the ball.”
With this win, the Wildcats now sit with a 7-1 record and have a four-game win streak that dates back to the team’s first loss against Kansas State on Nov. 23.
Up next, the Wildcats head into the second game of their six-game homestand. ACU will face the Oral Roberts Golden Eagles (4-5) on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m., with the game streaming live on ESPN+.