No. 2 Wildcats Championship Game Bound After Taming No. 3 Lions

first_imgACU shot just 30.4 percent in the second half and went 6:13 without a point, yet was able to hold on thanks to Jaylen Franklin’s four free throws in the final 42 seconds. Franklin had just one field goal but was a perfect 10-for-10 from the line, finishing with 12 points. The Wildcats didn’t feel at ease about matters until a last-second heave from Southeastern Louisiana’s Von Julien fell short, giving them the chance to play for the tournament crown six years after rejoining the Southland Conference. Southeastern Louisiana (17-16) struggled without the services of All-Conference first teamer Moses Greenwood, who picked up two early fouls. Without their biggest interior threat, the Lions fell behind 37-27 at the half as they committed 12 of their 17 turnovers in the opening 20 minutes of play. Despite blowing a 13-point lead, No. 2-seed ACU survived the challenge of No. 3 Southeastern Louisiana in a 69-66 thriller that places the Wildcats (26-6) into Saturday’s tournament championship game against No. 4 New Orleans at 8:30 p.m. CT. The winner will get the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.MBB: Playing in their first Southland tournament, the @ACU_MBB Wildcats are GOING TO THE ‘SHIP! Run to the big backstage bracket, men! #GoWildcats #ChampWeek @ACUedu @ACUSports— #SouthlandStrong (@SouthlandSports) March 16, 2019 Using the trap to harass the Wildcats, the Lions trimmed the lead down and closed within 49-44 on a dunk from Kajon Brown with 7:58 left. Brown added more offensive spark when his 3-pointer at the 5:49 mark pushed the deficit to 53-51 before Tyron Brewer’s dunk off an alley-oop from Veal gave Southeastern its first lead at 56-55 with 3:17 left. ACU led by as much as 13 in the first half but then went into an extended offensive funk that saw them score only seven points in a span of 12:03 seconds in the first and second half. The Wildcats opened the second half 1-for-7 from the field and eventually opened the door for Southeastern to get back into the contest. To be on the verge of playing in the NCAA Tournament for the first time is a moment long coming for ACU, which had to sit out four years after returning to the conference.The lead is 37-27 after a @JayFrank0 steal and dish to @jarenlewis for the bucket. #GoWildcats— ACU Mens Basketball (@ACU_MBB) March 16, 2019 “With Moses picking up those two fouls, it was tough,” said Southeastern guard Marlain Veal, the team’s All-Southland first teamer who scored 20 points and added six assists in his final game as a Lion.center_img Greenwood (10 points, five rebounds) gave the Lions their final lead at 59-57 after a layup with 2:07 left. However, ACU’s Payten Ricks responded with a 3-pointer that gave the Wildcats the lead for good with 1:59 remaining. Box Score | Photo GalleryKATY, Texas – Arriving at the Merrell Center was worth the wait for Abilene Christian, who finally played its first Southland Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament game on Friday night in Katy. Thanks to clutch defense and a couple of huge baskets down the stretch, the Wildcats will spend one more day in town with a chance to head to the NCAA Division I Men’s Tournament at stake. “We knew how important it is to make them turn the ball over,” said Wildcats forward Jaren Lewis, who had 17 points, 11 boards and two assists. “They’ve been pretty good at what they run since I’ve been at ACU, so we knew that was a point of emphasis. We knew we had to get after them defensively and be aggressive.” “We got off to a great start, but in the second half we couldn’t see the ball go through,” said ACU coach Joe Golding. “But we continued to guard and continued to rebound. Rebounding was the most important factor and we ended up tied on the glass (31-31).” “That was a huge, huge shot,” said Lions’ coach Jay Ladner. “That might have been the difference in the game.” “We came from a program that didn’t have a lot of success, but these kids stuck with me,” said Golding. “At the end of the day, we’re 40 minutes away from the NCAA Tournament. Six years ago, that was a pipe dream.”last_img read more