The Wildcats are now 2-0 in Western Athletic Conference play after defeating Dixie State on Saturday in their first-ever matchup in Abilene, 71-53.
Two days after facing a Utah Valley team that focused on an offense of lobs and post feeds, the Wildcats faced a Trailblazer team that mirrors the Wildcats, thriving from the 3-point line. By the end of the afternoon, both teams had attempted a combined 64 shots from deep.
Though the offense was familiar to the Wildcats, defending it was new for the team, but according to head coach Julie Goodenough, the team was able to adjust to how Dixie State played despite the quick turnaround.
“There were so many 3-pointers shots, and both teams knew that was going to happen, but both teams still gave up so many attempts,” Goodenough said. “We have not seen that style at all, and I don’t think we’ll see the spreading floor out with five players who can shoot and put the ball on the floor this year. It was a completely different scout than Thursday, so we’re proud about how players were able to purge the Utah Valley information and learn a new scout in a quick turnaround.”
By the end of Thursday afternoon’s matchup, ACU did hold the advantage in 3-pointers made, making 13 while Dixie State made 11. What made the difference for Goodenough’s team was capitalizing off of turnovers and rebounding.
ACU led in terms of turnover margin, with the team only having 10 while Dixie State had 16. Ultimately, ACU did the better job of capitalizing on the opponent’s mistake, with the team leading in points off of turnovers, 21-10.
After struggling with rebounding earlier in the season, the Wildcats have placed emphasis on rebounding, which showed in Saturday’s matchup. The Wildcats outrebounded the Trailblazers 44-26 overall and led with offensive rebounding 16-2. Those extra possessions allowed ACU to earn 17 second-chance points, while the Trailblazers finished with two.
“There’s no excuse not to be consistent with rebounding,” Goodenough said. “Our players have heard the message loud and clear that if you want to stay on the floor, you need to rebound, whether it be blocking out or crashing board offensively. They’ve been really buying into that and being more consistent in their rebounding effort.”
Some key role players in ACU’s matchup were redshirt junior center Sarah Griswold and freshman guard Bella Earle. Griswold was the second-leading scorer with 10 points and five rebounds, while Earle came off the bench and score seven points with all of them coming at crucial moments and grabbed six rebounds.
Yet again, it was graduate forward Jamie Bonnarens that led the charge for ACU. She finished the afternoon with 20 points and 11 rebounds, which gave her her tenth-straight double-digit game and third-straight double-double this season.
Once the game ended, Bonnarens talked about how her team was able to change their mindset to best play Dixie State, and how going 2-0 would help the team in the future.
“We had a really good scout and were able to come in the day after Thursday’s game and really locked in,” Bonnarens said. “That game was behind us and we had to focus on a new opponent, and that’s what college basketball is. You can play one team and then have a play a completely different one the next game, but I’m proud of how our team pulled out these wins and it’s great momentum for next week.”
Up next, the Wildcats (10-3, 2-0) will be on the road next week facing two familiar foes, Stephen F. Austin (10-3, 0-0) and Sam Houston (5-6, 0-0). Their first game will be against SFA, who was an NCAA tournament qualifier last year after finishing the Southland Conference undefeated. The Ladyjacks are also 19-0 when they play on their home floor in Natchitoches.
The Wildcats will aim to defeat the undefeated at home on Thursday, Jan. 6 in Natchitoches, with the game tipping off at 6:30 p.m., with the game streaming live on ESPN+.