With the chance to claim a share of the Lone Star Conference championship and put themselves in position to win an outright league title on Saturday, the ACU Wildcats ran into a buzzsaw desperate to keep its NCAA post-season hopes alive.
Incarnate Word jumped on the Wildcats early in the second half Wednesday night as the Wildcats whipped ACU, 68-53, at the McDermott Center on the UIW campus. The loss drops the Wildcats to 20-5 on the season and 15-4 in league play, while the Cardinals improve to 17-8 and 13-6.
ACU entered the contest ranked No. 2 in the NCAA Division II South Central Region rankings and fairly secure that its season will extend beyond next week's LSC Post-Season Tournament in Allen. Incarnate Word, however, entered the game ranked No. 10 in the region and probably needs to win out in order to make the regional tournament.
The Wildcats' worst loss of the season also kept them from clinching at least a share of the program's first league title since the 1998-99 season. Instead, Midwestern State's 73-63 win over Texas Woman's on Wednesday gave the Mustangs at least a share of the league title and the No. 1 seed in next week's post-season tournament.
ACU needs to beat Texas A&M-Kingsville on Saturday in the regular-season finale to clinch a share of the conference title and earn the No. 2 seed in the conference post-season tournament.
If the Wildcats do indeed clinch the No. 2 seed, they will open play in the conference post-season tournament at noon next Wednesday (March 6) against the No. 7 seed.
ACU trailed just 36-31 at halftime, but the Cardinals opened the second half with a 22-7 run to stretch the lead to 58-38 with 10:26 left in the game. Ashlyn Green -- who led all scorers with 27 points -- had nine points in the run that broke the game open. The 20-point deficit is only the second time this season ACU has trailed by at least 20 points in a game. The only other time they trailed by at least 20 points this season was back on Dec. 8 when they trailed by as many as 24 points in the second half of a 78-60 loss at Tarleton State.
The Wildcats never got closer than 13 points the rest of the way as they shot just 28.6 percent in the second half, hitting just 8 of 28 shots from the field. ACU entered the game leading the league in scoring offense (75.5 points per game), free throw percentage (74.2 percent) and 3-point field goals per game (8.8), second in 3-point field goal percentage (33.5 percent).
In Wednesday's loss, the Wildcats scored just 53 points to match their season-low total (53 in a 53-39 win at Angelo State on Jan. 23), they hit just 6 of 23 3-point attempts (26.1 percent), and they made just 11 of 19 free throw attempts (57.9 percent).
Mackenzie Lankford led the Wildcats in scoring for the fifth straight game with 11 points, while Renata Marquez had 10 points and 10 rebounds and Kynzie Newman added 10 points off the bench.
Information for this story provided by ACU Sports Information.