The Wildcats retained the fourth seed in Western Athletic Conference play on Thursday as they took down the Sam Houston State Bearkats, 88-71.
Heading into the matchup, the Wildcats and the Bearkats were tied alongside Utah Valley for the fourth seed in the WAC standings. With a win, either team would be one step closer to earning sole possession of the fourth seed and the coveted double-bye in the conference tournament.
The Bearkats also entered the Thursday night matchup on a seven-game win streak after starting conference play 7-6. So, with the win streak and Sam Houston’s signature pressure defense, head coach Julie Goodenough was amazed how her players came together to get the win.
“We knew that this game was going to be quite a battle heading into it,” Goodenough said. “We also saw a lot of good things on both sides of the ball. Defensively, we had all players working as a unit to get stops and offensively, we shared the ball really well which allowed our offense to really get going.”
To start the game, the Wildcats went on a 5-0 run that soon grew into a 12-2 run by the 4:46 mark of the first quarter. From there ACU never looked back, despite the multiple attempts by the Bearkats to get back into the game. It was too late, the Wildcats had full control, which stayed with them until the final buzzer rang
By the end of the game, the Wildcats finished shooting 55 percent from the field and 50 percent from the 3-point line, all while dishing out a combined 20 assists. But as Goodenough said, the offense was not the only thing clicking for her team.
Defensively, the Wildcats caused the Bearkats to commit 26 turnovers versus their 17, while also stealing the ball from Sam Houston 17 times. This also allowed ACU to score 34 points off turnovers while its opponent only scored 15.
“This was one of those games where you wish you could bottle it up so you can open that bottle the next time you can play,” Goodenough said. “Unfortunately, that’s not how that works in athletics but we were really pleased with our players on being ready to play tonight and how the played as that unit.”
Though multiple players had strong performances on Thursday, leading the way for the Wildcats was freshman guard Bella Earle and graduate forward Jamie Bonnarens.
Earle came of the bench and finished the game with 15 points, all. while shooting a percent 5-5 from the field and 2-2 from the 3-point line. She also added four assists and three rebounds, which all led her to be named the WAC’s Freshman of the Week.
As for Bonnarens, she had earn fourth 20-point game of the season, finishing with 24 points. She also shot 5-8 from deep, and added four steals, four assists and three rebounds.
“We prepared for their pressure and we knew that they were going to run a trap,” said Bonnarens. “We just had to stick to what we know and what we do. My teammates were able to find each other and I loved the extra passes we gave each other down the stretch. That’s just awesome to play with.”
After not playing on Saturday, the Wildcats’ next game will be on Thursday, Feb. 24 on the road against the Lamar Cardinals. ACU will tip-off in Beaumont at 7 p.m. with the game streaming live on ESPN+.