The Wildcats regular season ended on a high note, defeating the Tarleton State Texas in Stephenville, 80-60.
With the win, ACU finished their 2021-2022 regular season 17-12, and Western Athletic Conference play 9-9. Their .500 conference play record proved enough to give the Wildcats the fifth seed in the conference tournament, as well as a first-round by for the upcoming tournament in Las Vegas, Nev.
“The seeding is good for us,” said head coach Julie Goodenough. “We’re happy with the five-seed and we feel good about the matchups. If we played stronger the last week, we would have could have gotten a top four seed, but we are happy with it, and anything can happen come tournament time.”
Along with clinching the fifth seed in the tournament, the win allowed ACU to snap a three-game losing streak, with losses to Stephen F. Austin, Dixie State and Lamar over the past week.
The matchup in Stephenville got out to a quick and close start, with neither team gaining a edge on the other. This continued throughout the entire first half, with the score being tied at 39 a piece at halftime. Things quickly changed in the third quarter, where the Wildcats outscored the Texans 20-6, giving ACU a 14-point lead and all the momentum heading into the final frame.
“We talked about some defensive adjustments we needed to make at halftime, and our players responded well,” Goodenough said. “It got Tarleton out of their flow and we got a lot of good defensive stops that turned into some good early offense for us.”
After the dominant third quarter performance, Tarleton tried to stop the Wildcats momentum, but the Wildcats’ 55 percent shooting in the quarter and a 16-4 run to end the game dashed the Texans’ hope to win Saturday afternoon’s game.
Four Wildcats finished the game in double figures. Three of the players included graduate forward Emma Middleton with 14 points, plus adding 10 points a piece was senior guard Kamryn Mraz and freshman guard Bella Earle.
Ultimately, it was graduate forward Jamie Bonnarens who led the Wildcat offense, as she has all season. Bonnarens scored a season-high 26 points in the game, all after struggling the past two games. Given her whole season, Bonnarens was later named on the WAC’s first-team all conference team, as well as being name the WAC’s Newcomer of the Year.
“We ran sets for her, and it was one of those games where she was in the zone scoring wise,” Goodenough said. “She is so well deserving of all the accolades she received. My only regret with Jamie is that I only get to coach her one year, because she has been so fun to have on and off the court for us.”
Up next, the Wildcats head to the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, Nev., to await the start of their conference tournament run. The Wildcats’ seeding and first-round bye will have them playing either the eighth seed, the University of Texas at Rio Grande Valley, or the ninth seed, Seattle University.
“We are anxious to see UTRGV and Seattle U play nso we can see who we will play in that first round,” Goodenough said. “If we want to make it to the end, we’ll have to make it through the number one seed. But, everyone is healthy right now, and I feel like we will be able to put out best foot forward when the challenge comes.”
ACU’s matchup with either UTRGV or Seattle U will take place on Wednesday at 2 p.m. in the Orleans Arena, located in Las Vegas, Nev., with the game streaming live on ESPN+.