The Wildcats (7-5) have won five of their last six games after completing a second half comeback win against the CSU-Bakersfield Roadrunners (4-6), 65-59.
ACU faced multiple woes in the first half, resulting in the team, ultimately resulting in a 16-point deficit heading into the second half. But the Wildcats found new life in the second half, outscoring the Roadrunners by 22 points to help give them their second road win of the season.
According to head coach Brette Tanner, it taught the team multiple lessons and confidence for the inevitable start of Western Conference play.
“It’s huge because now they’ve seen you don’t have to get it back in a game right away,” Tanner said. “It shows that we don’t have to panic, just keep playing basketball the way that we know how. I told the guys before the game, defense and energy travels and shots don’t. We came out, we couldn’t hit shots, but our defense and our energy allowed us to stay in the game, and as conference plays starts, we have to find a way to win on the road, so I think this is huge for our confidence moving forward.”
CSU-Bakersfield initially came out swinging in the first half, holding ACU to 21 percent shooting in the first half, with the Wildcats only scoring 15 points in the first 20 minutes. Meanwhile the Roadrunners shot 54 percent from the field, taking a 31-15 lead at halftime.
In the second half, the Saturday night game took a significant turn, but in the Wildcats’ favor.
Slowly, ACU started chipping away at the Roadrunners lead while shooting 63 percent throughout the entire second half. The Wildcats’ notorious defense also came into play, holding CSU-Bakersfield to 35 percent shooting, ultimately outscoring the Roadrunners 50-28. With 4:01 left in the game, the Wildcats finally took their first lead of the game, and did not look back.
After the game, Tanner swaid that the team made several different adjustments at halftime in order to climb their way back and eventually earn the win.
“They did a great job of taking us out of what we wanted to do, that’s to CSU-Bakersfield’s credit,” Tanner said. “So what we did the second half was we picked up the pace, and it was not necessarily faster scoring, but we were getting the ball on the floor quicker and moving the ball quicker. Our biggest adjustment we made at halftime was we started ball screening a little bit more They’re big guys, so by ball screening we were pulling their bigs away from the rim.”
Four of the five Wildcat starters finished in double digits. Junior guard Hunter Jack Madden and redshirt senior Immanuel Allen both finished with 11 points while senior forward Joe Pleasant added 12 points.
Leading the Wildcats in scoring and in their comeback was graduate guard Tobias Cameron, who led all scorers with 17 points on 5-6 shooting from the 3-point line. One of his threes gave the Wildcats their first lead of the game.
Now, the Wildcats prepare for their nonconference matchup of the season against the Howard Payne Yellow Jackets (2-8, 0-5). December has not been kind to the Yellow Jackets, who are on a six game losing streak, with their last win being a 80-73 win against Austin College.
Despite HPU’s struggles, Tanner hopes his team finishes their nonconference slate strong so they can enter conference on the right note.
“We got to respect our opponent, number one, and it’s not over yet because we won this one,” Tanner said. “We always call this season one and we have one more game to finish season one and finish it the right way. I want to try to turn them over and I want to make sure we do it the right way. Then, I know the students are gone and their finals are over. But if anybody’s in town or around, we need them to move to Coliseum; help us finish this thing out the right way.”
The ACU and HPU matchup tips off at 6 p.m. on Wednesday in Moody Coliseum for Rally Cats Kids Night. The game will stream live on ESPN+ and the ACU Sports Network.