After watching a somewhat lethargic defensive performance in the first half, ACU head coach Julie Goodenough issued a challenge to her team at halftime.
To say the Wildcats responded to that challenge would be a huge understatement.
ACU carried over a late first-half run into the second half Thursday night, outscoring Oral Roberts 34-9 over an11:02 stretch to go from eight points down to 17 points ahead en route to a 70-56 win over the Golden Eagles.
The win pushes the Wildcats to 11-6 overall and 2-0 in the Southland, while the Golden Eagles fall to 3-11 and 2-2. ACU is now in first place in the Southland after Stephen F. Austin lost to Northwestern State Thursday night.
The Wildcats thought they had a forfeit win over Southeastern Louisiana already on their ledger, but a ruling early Thursday by the NCAA waived off the forfeit and the Wildcats will have to play the Lions at some point this season.
But that's a worry for another day as the Wildcats will take their win and get ready for Saturday's contest against the Sugar Bears.
The Wildcats trailed ORU 33-25 with 3:42 left in Thursday night's first half before the game turned in their favor. ACU finished the half on a 6-2 run that trimmed the deficit to 35-31 at the break.
Whitney West, Lizzy Dimba and Renata Marquez each had two points in the spurt that started with a West layup with 1:17 left in the first half.
It was at the half that Goodenough issued her challenge.
"We just weren't playing with much energy on the defensive end and I challenged them to put pressure on them in the second half," Goodenough said. "We weren't able to change up our defense very effectively in the first half because they were making too many shots."
The Wildcats accepted that challenge and were a different team in the second half, especially guard Alexis Mason. The freshman from McKinney scored 15 of her 18 points in the second half, including nine straight in the run that finally gave the Wildcats the lead.
The Wildcats grabbed their first lead of the second half with 18:14 left in the game on an old-fashioned three-point play by Mason to make it 36-35. Those were the first three of nine straight points scored by Mason, who added another three-point play and then a 3-pointer to give ACU a 42-35 lead with 17:24 to play.
ACU grabbed its first double-digit lead of the night with 14:02 to play on a 3-pointer by Whitney West, giving the Wildcats a 50-40 advantage. After ORU cut the lead to 51-42 with 12:43 to play, ACU ran off eight straight points on a Suzzy Dimba three-point play, West lay-up and 3-pointer by Mason. That 3-point dagger made it a 59-42 lead for the Wildcats with 10:15 left in the game.
ORU had one spurt left, cutting the lead to 64-56 with 4:03 to play, but Sydney Shelstead hit four straight free throws before Suzzy Dimba hit two with 48 seconds left for the final margin.
Mason led the Wildcats with 18 points, while Renata Marquez had 13 points. West finished with 12 and Lizzy Dimba with 10. Suzzy Dimba had seven points and a game-high 15 rebounds, while Shelstead had five points and 11 rebounds.
ACU dominated the glass, out-rebounding the Golden Eagles 45-28 and committing just 16 turnovers compared to 20 for Oral Roberts.
Information provided by ACU Athletics.