The Wildcats held a 19-point deficit on Saturday night, defeating the New Mexico State Aggies, 76-73, with the win serving as one of the largest comebacks for ACU during Julie Goodenough’s coaching career.
“I really credit the team for embracing something that we always say ‘Grit don’t quit,’ by showing so much grit and toughness tonight,” head coach Julie Goodenough said. “We stayed together as a team, and we knew that this would be a tough game… I’m really proud of our players for being able to do that after we dug ourselves into a hole, they were still able to keep fighting.”
The first quarter was a back-and-forth between the two teams, with redshirt junior center Sarah Griswold scoring six points in the first five minutes of the game. With the help of Griswold’s six points, ACU was able to keep pace with New Mexico State, with the game being tied at 16 to end the quarter.
To start the second quarter, the Aggies went on an 11 point run to spread out the lead, allowing them to take a 10-point lead heading into the locker room at the half. The visiting team continued to extend their lead to 19 points in the third quarter.
With 40 seconds left in the quarter, in two back-to-back plays, freshman guard Bella Earle was able to score, allowing the home team to cut the lead down to 11 points and gain all the momentum heading into the final 10 minutes of the game.
“The way we ended the third quarter was what we felt like that was the big momentum turn for us,” Goodenough said. “Our players really trusted us coaches and what we asked them and believed in themselves. They just went from there and fought really hard.”
ACU ended up outscoring New Mexico State 22-8 to end out the game, and they finally gained the lead with 1:15 left in the game, courtesy of a layup from Earle. The game remained tight for the final minute of the game, but after leaving it all out on the floor, the Wildcats escaped with a three-point win.
Earle ended up finishing the game leading the Wildcat offense with a career-high 16 points all while shooting 60 percent on the field while adding seven rebounds and four assists. At the end of the game, she credited the team’s win to the grittiness that is instilled in the team on and off the court.
“Coach Goodenough always preaches about grittiness and playing scrappy,” Earle said. “Really throughout my whole time here, we’ve practiced that while playing against each other, and I really think that helped us during the game.”
Other players that stood out for ACU include Sarah Griswold and senior guard Madi Miller. Griswold was the next leading scorer for the Wildcats, scoring 13 points, while Miller finished the night with 12 points and making the only 3-point shot the Wildcats had that game.
After playing four games in eight days and dealing with players missing due to COVID-19 protocols, the Wildcats finished the two-week stretch with a 2-2 record against some of the toughest teams in the conference. This allowed ACU to now sit as the fourth-ranked team in the Western Athletic Conference.
“We talk a lot about Navy SEALs, and they always say, “When under pressure, rise to the occasion, and you sink to the level of your training,’ and we focused on that heading into this game,” Goodenough said. “We knew that we have spent a lot of energy and emotions over the past 13 days, and we wanted to finish strong today, and we did that in a valiant way effort tonight.”
The Wildcats will now be able to rest for a few days before they start their trip to the west coast playing the Seattle University Redhawks. The game will begin at 8 p.m. Thursday in the Redhawk Center found in Seattle, Wash., with the game streaming live on ESPN+.