LIONS RALLY TO FORCE OVERTIME BUT FALL TO ABILENE CHRISTIAN, 92-79
Abilene Christian 92, A&M-Commerce 79 (OT)
Location: The Field House • Commerce, Texas
Records: A&M-Commerce (6-8, 1-5 LSC); Abilene Christian (7-8, 1-6 LSC)
Up Next: at Angelo State • Saturday, January 14 • 7:30 p.m.
COMMERCE, Texas -- Senior forward Desmond King notched a career-high 34 points as A&M-Commerce rallied from a late deficit to take Abilene Christian to overtime, but the Wildcats dominated the extra stanza, handing the Lions a 92-79 defeat at the Field House.
King had arguably his best night in a Lion uniform, hitting 11 of 16 shots from the floor (68.8 percent) and was 12-of-15 at the line (80.0 percent), recording the career-best 34 points. He nearly posted his third double-double of the season, pulling down nine rebounds, including six offensive. King had 20 points at halftime and surpassed his previous career-high of 30 points, set in the victory over Henderson State last month.
Esteban Arriola also had a career-night as well, finishing with a personal-best 12 points, including a three key three-pointers down the stretch, while also dishing out a season-best six assists with a pair of rebounds. Devondrick Walker also reached double-digits for the Lions, finishing with 11 points and five rebounds. Preston Whitley added nine points and three boards off the bench for A&M-Commerce.
Andrew Davis had seven points and seven rebounds, finishing a perfect three-for-three from the floor, including hitting a three-pointer to open up the game. La Bree Sledge tied Arriola for the team lead with six assists. But the Lions missed production from Brad Hambrick, who was held to no points with four assists and six rebounds before fouling out late in the second half.
Thanks to a three from Davis and a layup from Sledge in the opening 90 seconds, A&M-Commerce jumped out to a 5-0 lead, only to see Abilene Christian rally to tie the game less than a minute later. That set the stage for a back-and-forth opening half as the Lions and Wildcats combined for eight ties and nine lead changes through the opening 20 minutes.
Abilene Christian's three-point shooting was on target all night as the Wildcats used a number of threes to key a late first half run, including a 7-0 stretch to build a 39-32 lead with 4:02 remaining. Abilene Christian would keep A&M-Commerce at bay down the stretch, taking a 46-39 lead into the halftime break.
The Wildcats used a few more cluth three-pointers to build an 11-point lead at 62-51 midway through the second half. But A&M-Commerce found its scoring touch down the stretch, using an 8-0 run to pull to within three at 62-59 with eight minutes remaining.
Leading 69-65, Abilene Christian had the ball but the A&M-Commerce defense was giving the Wildcats no looks at the basket. With one second remaining on the shot clock, the Wildcats' Kendall Durant hit a 30-foot three-pointer, putting the Wildcats on top 72-65 with 3:18 to play.
But A&M-Commerce continued to fight, outscoring Abilene Christian 8-1 over the final three minutes. Leading 73-71, ACU's Eric Kibi had a chance to extend the lead, but missed the front end of a one-and-one opportunity with 36 seconds remaining, followed by a pair of clutch free throws by King, tying the game at 73-73. The Lions then held strong, not allowing Abilene Christian a clean look as time expired, sending the game into overtime.
But it was Abilene Christian that carried momentum into the extra stanza, using an 11-4 run over the opening three minutes to build a commanding 84-77 lead over the Lions. A&M-Commerce never found its rhythym from that point forward, committing three costly turnovers as Abilene Christian earned their first conference win with a 92-79 decision.
Both teams were nearly identical in shooting from the floor, with the Lions hitting 48.3 percent compared to 48.4 percent for the Wildcats. But the difference came in three-point shooting as Abilene Christian knocked down 11 of its 25 attempts (44.0 percent), compared to just seven of the Lions' 23 shots (30.4 percent). The Wildcats also held a 72.4 percent to 61.5 percent advantage in free throw shooting for the game and committed just 12 turnovers, compared to 22 for A&M-Commerce.
Six different Wildcats scored in double figures on the night, led by 21 points from Antonio Bell, including three-of-five from three-point range. Durant added 16 points for Abilene Christian with Armani Williams and Kibi each recording 13 points, with Kibi leading the Wildcats with nine rebounds. Marc Little finished with 11 points and a team-high six assists for ACU.
The Lions do remain a half game ahead of the Wildcats in the Lone Star standings, sitting eighth. It sets up a big road game this Saturday as A&M-Commerce travels to Angelo State for a showdown with the 10th-place Rams. Angelo State is 0-7 in LSC play as the Lions look to remain in the top-eight. Opening tip from Stephens Arena is set for 7:30 p.m. Saturday evening.