The Wildcats (11-7, 2-5) dropped their fifth-straight 72-62 to the Seattle University Redhawks (14-4, 5-0) in the Teague Special Events Center on Thursday night.
Coming into Teague, the Redhawks were coming off a 92-85 win in overtime at California Baptist (12-6, 2-3) for their third game in five days. ACU had struggled offensively heading into the matchup, having not scored more than 68 points since the 80-76 win on Dec. 30 at Utah Valley. First-year head coach Brette Tanner is facing adversity early in Western Athletic Conference play, having lost five straight.
“We love each other, and when we say that we really mean it,” Tanner said. “We can be in a slump like this but that doesn’t mean we’re going to quit on each other. I do believe this is going to turn around. I believe that wholeheartedly, and when it does we’re going to be pretty dangerous to play.”
Both teams shot the ball poorly to start off, with ACU shooting 2-11 and Seattle shooting 3-9 in the first nine minutes. Seattle then extended its lead to 21-13 before Wildcats freshman guard Ja’Sean Jackson scored a quick three and layup to cut the lead to three.
However, the Wildcats were unable to close the gap, and the Redhawks led 35-22 at half. Redhawks junior guard/forward Riley Grigsby led his team in scoring with 13 at the half. Redhawks redshirt sophomore Houston transfer guard Cameron Tyson hit a buzzer-beating half-court shot to end the half.
ACU finished the half shooting 29% from the field and 30% from the 3-point line. Seattle shot 52.2% and 50% from three. In the six losses the Wildcats had prior to Thursday their opponents shot 44% from three. In ACU’s 11 wins prior to Thursday, they only allowed opponents to shoot 27% from three. The Wildcats are now 0-7 when trailing at the break.
“For the third or fourth game in a row, we’re just missing layups,” Tanner said. “I don’t get it; that’s never been something this team has struggled with. I told them the truth that I can’t help you with that, but I can go back to the drawing board. Some things we’re doing offensively aren’t working anymore.”
The Wildcats cut it to four with 9:22 to play but went 3-14 from the floor to close out the game. The Redhawks extended the lead to 15 with 2:49 to play, but ACU finished on a 15-10 run and outscored the Redhawks 40-37 in the second half. Senior guard Reggie Miller led in scoring for the Wildcats with 12 but as a team shot only 21 of 63 from the field.
“If I’m putting too much in front of them to make them think that much then I have to pull back a little bit and give them the opportunity to play free,” Tanner said. “We’re going to work on that, and we’re going to play a little looser and a little lighter and see what happens. My job is to figure out a way to get the ball in the basket, and that’s what I’m going to do.
The Redhawks now take sole possession of first place in the WAC after Grand Canyon and New Mexico State both lost by 25 to Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston on Thursday night. Meanwhile, ACU dropped to 11th place in the standing with the loss.
Tanner and his squad forced 18 turnovers but scored only 16 points off those turnovers. Tanner and the Wildcats have now faced adversity but are far from out of the WAC race.
“We talked in the locker room about our Bible verses, Mark 3:25, Proverbs 27:17 and Luke 16:10,” Tanner said. “We got to stay together, hold each other accountable, and iron sharpens iron. If we’ve ever needed to sharpen one another, this is the time to do it. Our house can’t be divided right now, and they know that.”
The Wildcats stay home and look to end their skid as they face the California Baptist Lancers (12-6, 2-3) at 3 p.m. on Saturday at the Teague Special Events Center. The game will be streamed live on ESPN+.