ACU (13-11, 5-6) gained another crucial win for its resume on Saturday after defeating the California Baptist Lancers (13-11, 5-6) 87-71 in Riverside, California.
The win capped off a successful West Coast trip for the Wildcats, with wins over the Lancers and the Seattle University Redhawks on Wednesday, 83-68. With these two wins, ACU moves to the eighth seed in the Western Athletic Conference standings, with the top 12 teams earning an automatic bid to the conference tournament in March.
The Wildcats now have won four of their last five games after losing four straight towards the start of conference play. Head coach Brette Tanner credited the win streak to the team playing with more energy and connectedness.
“We’re playing with a great spirit right now, that’s the only word I can come up with is that, you know, the energy, the swagger,” Tanner said. “This team is finally kind of getting connected, you know, that’s the word we’ve always used with our team in the last couple of years is like, we’re connected. And this team, I don’t think was as connected early and we’re really starting to find that now.”
CBU got out to a quick start in the first half and held a 10-point lead with 7:11 left in the first half. ACU worked to cut down the lead throughout the half successfully, with the Lancers only having a 39-38 lead going into halftime. After the game, Tanner said that despite the Lancers throwing some surprises at them he was proud of how his team turned it around in the first half.
“California Baptist, they’re really good and they did some things we weren’t really prepared for that we thought we were really prepared for. But to their credit, they threw some different things at us but our guys did a great job of adjusting.”
The Wildcats opened up the second half on a 5-0 run to earn a four-point lead then went on an 18-5 run to take a commanding lead in the first half. The Lancers tried a full-court press to try and narrow the Wildcats’ lead, but the damage was already done. ACU outscored CBU 49-32 giving the Wildcats the 16-point win.
ACU finished shooting 52 percent from the field while holding CBU to 47 percent. ACU’s 3-point defense shined through, with the Lancers only shooting 24 percent from behind the arch, all while ACU shot 55 percent from the 3-point line.
Five Wildcats finished the game in double figures, those players include:
- Senior guard Damien Daniels; 17 points, four assists and four steals
- Sophomore guard Hunter Jack Madden; 17 points, 66 percent 3-point shooting and 9-9 free throw shooting
- Senior forward Airion Simmons; 16 points, 50 percent shooting from the field, six rebounds
- Graduate guard Tobias Cameron; 15 points and 5-5 shooting from the field
- Sophomore guard Ali Abdou Dibba; 10 points and 5-9 shooting from the field.
According to Tanner, the multiple scoring threats not only shows how the team is multifaceted but shows the trust the team can have in each other.
“It’s a little confusing for me at times, but I think it’s given them trust in each other,” Tanner said. “I think it makes this hard to prepare for, you know, what do you do when you know that there’s a lot of guys that can score. I guess part of what we do offensively is we share the basketball so it can be anybody any night. Hopefully, it’s built trust in the guys with each other.”
Next the Wildcats have a week off to prepare for their next game on Saturday against the Sam Houston Bearkats (17-6, 7-4). The last time the two teams played each other resulted in an overtime thriller in Huntsville, resulting in a 75-71 loss. Heading into the matchup Tanner said that he plans to give his team some rest, but also keep practices consistent.
“I made a mistake earlier in the year taking a couple of days off and it kind of took us a while to get ready and again,” Tanner said. “First it’s going to be a nice easy practice, probably a lot of film before we get on the floor. Then we’ll get after it very hard, but we’re going to lock into us, there are some of the things we didn’t do so well this past week. We’ll probably take Wednesday off and then start preparing for Sam Houston on Thursday and Friday.”
The Wildcats and Bearkats face off on Saturday at 6 p.m. inside Moody Coliseum with the game streaming live on ESPN+ and the. ACU Sports Network.
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