In the final road game of the regular season, ACU (14-14, 8-9) defeated the Sam Houston State Bearkats (12-15, 8-9) in Huntsville, 74-68.
The win marks the second-straight win for the Wildcats and the third win in the past four games. One of those wins included an 89-83 overtime win to the now regular season champions of the Western Athletic Conference Southern Utah.
After the Tuesday night matchup, head coach Julie Goodenough said that the win on Thursday helped her team have confidence. That confidence was needed for the team going on the road to play the Bearkats since Sam Houston defeated ACU in Moody Coliseum in the previous matchup on Jan. 8, 69-66.
“It was a really big win for this team but also a big win for our program,” Goodenough said. “We were feeling pretty confident after that game. I was a little bit concerned that we had a bye, you would like to have rolled into another game real quickly after that. I do think that playing as well as we did, and getting a big win Thursday helped us roll into Huntsville with confidence.”
From the opening tip, ACU maintained a one-to-two possession lead. In the first quarter, the Wildcats grew their lead up to nine points, but the Bearkats were able to quickly cut it back to a two-to-three-point game. Yet ACU still kept a narrow lead throughout the rest of the game.
By the fourth quarter, ACU and Sam Houston exchanged buckets and the lead. In the final three minutes of the game, the Wildcats outscored the Bearkats 10-4, allowing ACU to get the eight-point win.
“It was an interesting game where I felt like from the very beginning we were in control of the game, but I would look at the scoreboard and we’re only up two,” Goodenough said. “It was a very hard-fought battle. I just thought our players just stayed focused for 40 minutes and just took the game one possession at a time.”
While both the Wildcats and the Bearkats shot similarly from the field and 3-point line, what helped push the Wildcats above the Bearkats was their free-throw shooting. ACU was 17-22 from the line while Sam Houston was 9-12 from the charity stripe.
Four Wildcats finished the game in double digits, all four of them being in the starting five.
Sophomore guard Aspen Thornton led the way with 19 points top of five rebounds and steals. Other players in double digits include graduate forward Maleeah Langstaff with 16, graduate forward Madi Miller with 13 and redshirt freshman forward Addison Martin with 10. The last of the starting five, sophomore guard Bella Earle, scored six points while also adding 10 rebounds to the stat line.
“I think that our starting lineup is one of the top three starting lineups in the conference,” Goodenough said. “They’re all just embracing their roles and showing up for each other every night. They just did what they do. All five of our starters are playing at a high level right now, which is exactly what you want in late February and early March.”
The Wildcats have one more game left in the regular season, but this time at home against the 11th-ranked team in the WAC standings Seattle U (5-22, 5-12).
“I want to see us have a laser focus on the task at hand,” Goodenough said. “We need to win because we’re at home and we want Madi and Maleeah a great final game in Moody Coliseum. We need to continue believing in the strength of our team. The more we play team basketball and the more we just elevate the team, the harder we’re going to be to beat.”
The Wildcats and the Redhawks face off for the final game of the regular season inside Moody Coliseum Thursday at 6 p.m. with the game streaming live on ESPN+ and the ACU Sports Network.
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