POSTSEASON HOPES REMAIN ALIVE FOLLOWING 75-72 WIN AT ABILENE CHRISTIAN
A&M-Commerce 75, Abilene Christian 72
Location: Moody Coliseum · Abilene, Texas
Records: A&M-Commerce (9-16, 4-13 LSC); Abilene Christian (12-15, 4-13 LSC)
Up Next: vs. Angelo State · Saturday, February 25 · 8 p.m. · The Field House
ABILENE, Texas – Thanks to a late 12-0 run and a nailbiting finish, A&M-Commerce's postseason hopes remain alive after the Lions rally to upend Abilene Christian 75-72 at Moody Coliseum. The Lions win their second-consecutive Lone Star Conference road game and improve to 9-16 on the year with a 4-13 mark in Lone Star Conference play, moving into a three-way tie for eighth-place with the Wildcats and Angelo State.
The win sets up a dramatic regular season finale Saturday when A&M-Commerce hosts Angelo State at the Field House. If the Lions want to advance to the 2012 Lone Star Conference Championships in Allen, A&M-Commerce needs to defeat the Rams Saturday evening and hope for a Tarleton State victory over Abilene Christian. On paper, it looks hopeful for A&M-Commerce as Angelo State has yet to win a road game this season while the Wildcats haven't won in Stephenville since 1998.
"This game definitely had a playoff feel to it, because we really have been having playoff games for the last two weeks," said head coach Sam Walker. "We know that if we lose, our season is done, so I give a lot of credit to our seniors for refusing to give in and motivating this team to play the best it can.
"Saturday will be a fun environment. We need everyone to not just come and cheer us on, but bring two or three friends with them. The Field House will be an amazing atmosphere, and I know our guys are incredibly eager to play that game."
Four Lions finished in double figures, led by 17 apiece by both Devondrick Walker and Preston Whitley. Whitley added five rebounds off the bench while Desmond King recorded 16 points for A&M-Commerce with a team-high six boards. Brad Hambrick had 12 points, four rebounds and four assists while playing all 40 minutes for the Lions, the third-straight game in which the Lion senior has been on the court for every second.
Playing for its postseason life as well, Abilene Christian raced out to an early 11-4 lead six minutes into the contest. The Wildcats would maintain at least a five-point edge throughout the majority of the opening half, leading by as many as eight at 22-14. But A&M-Commerce found its spark at the end of the half, closing out the opening stanza on a 7-0 run to take a 33-31 lead into halftime.
The Lions carried that momentum into the second half as a three by Walker gave A&M-Commerce its biggest lead of the game at 39-33 less than a minute into the second. But Abilene Christian rallied back with an 11-0 run of its own, reclaiming the lead at 47-41 with 14 minutes remaining.
Abilene Christian matched its game-high, building an eight-point lead at 56-48 as the Lions could see their postseason hopes fading. The Wildcats maintained that lead through the five-minute mark, leading 67-59 with 4:49 to go as Abilene Christian looked to close out A&M-Commerce on its home floor.
But the Lions once again showed their resilience. Sparked by Hambrick and Whitley, A&M-Commerce mounted a 12-0 run spanning the next three minutes, building a four-point lead at 71-67 with just under two minutes to play. Abilene Christian pulled to within one a handful of times, the last coming at 73-72, and had a chance take the lead in the waning seconds until a Wildcat turnover with 10 seconds to play sent Walker to the line where he hit both free throws to seal the victory for A&M-Commerce.
The stat sheet was as close as the score would indicate as A&M-Commerce shot 44.4 percent from the floor, compared to 44.6 percent for Abilene Christian. The Wildcats held the edge in three-point shooting, hitting 43.5 percent compared to just 35.7 percent for the Lions, but the difference came to the free throw line where A&M-Commerce shot 39 free throws, 20 more than Abilene Christian, and hit 30 of them (76.9 percent).
Antonio Bell led Abilene Christian with 23 points and five rebounds with Kendall Durant adding 12 points. But they were the only two to finish in double figures for the Wildcats with Zach Williams and Eric Milam each finishing with eight points on the night.
With a postseason berth on the line, Lion fans are encouraged to pack the Field House Saturday and cheer on their Lions in the 2011-12 regular season finale. In addition to the playoff implications, A handful of events are planned as the game is the annual John McLendon game as longtime A&M-Commerce professor Dr. David Talbot will be recognized prior to the game. The game against Angelo State also marks the final home game for A&M-Commerce seniors Brad Hambrick, Desmond King and LaBree Sledge will be recognized prior to the 8 p.m. opening tip.
For ticket information, contact the A&M-Commerce Athletic Department at (903) 886-5558.