The Wildcats’ Western Athletic Conference tournament run and season came to a rapid close on Wednesday afternoon when they fell to the UTRGV Vaqueros, 73-70.
“I think we have a lot to be proud of this season,” said head coach Julie Goodenough. “We had eight new players join seven returners, and it’s been such a fun team to coach. We’ve stubbed our toes multiple times this season and been a little inconsistent finishing games, and today was no exception to that.”
The Vaqueros got out to a hot start in the first quarter, shooting 71 percent from the field and 5-5 from the 3-point line. Meanwhile, ACU shot 32 percent and 50 percent, respectively. Due to the hot shooting start, the Vaqueros took six-point lead at the end of the first, and then extended the lead to nine points at halftime.
The tide started to turn in the second half when the Wildcats shut down the Vaqueros shooting through strong defense and gained momentum on the offensive end.
“We made some adjustments heading out in the third, and I thought our players were a lot more alert,” Goodenough said. “They did a better job of seeing balls and seeing girl.”
They kept this pace until the end of the game, where they were down by three points with 9.9 seconds left on the clock. Coming off a timeout, Goodenough and the Wildcats ran a play to hit a 3-pointer to tie the game, but it fell short, giving the Vaqueros its second win in the WAC tournament.
In the end, the Wildcats finished the Wednesday afternoon matchup shooting 31 percent from the field and 30 percent from the 3-point line. Meanwhile, their counterparts in orange and white finished the game shooting 49 percent from the field and and 38 percent from the 3-point line
Three of ACU starters gave double-digit performances on Wednesday afternoon. One of those was senior guard Madi Miller, who scored 14 points on 5-11 shooting. She also added five rebounds, two assists and one steal.
Another was graduate guard Tatum Barber, scoring 13 points for the Wildcats, plus led the team with three steals. With this being the last game of her college career, she wished the game had turned out differently, but it just was not in the cards for them.
“We really thought that we could win this tournament,” Barber said. “If the ball flew a different way a couple times or the jump balls went a different way, we definitely would of won tonight. This team has definitely grown this season, and I believe they will do great things in this tournament next year.”
Finally, leading the Wildcats for the final time this season was WAC Newcomer of the Year and graduate forward Jamie Bonnarens. She led all scorers with 19 points while also leading the team with six rebounds. With this game also being the last in her career, Bonnarens said she hoped to leave a lasting impact on the program and the younger players.
“Coming in as a super senior, you know that you have the experience under your belt, and you know automatically people are looking up to you,” Bonnarens said. “So you just try to put your best foot forward every practice and every day. When the last buzzer sounds, there’s no going back, so I just tried to leave the best experience and best knowledge on the younger kids.”
With the loss, the Wildcats’ season comes to a close. They finished the season with a 17-13 overall record and a 9-10 conference record. The team will see the loss of graduate transfers Bonnarens, Barber and forward Emma Middleton, and the potential loss of Miller, who could potentially use her extra year of eligibility from the NCAA granted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Wildcats season is done unless the team receives a postseason tournament invite.