Abilene Christian 60, A&M-Commerce 57
Location: The Field House • Commerce, Texas
Records: A&M-Commere (11-10, 4-7 LSC); Abilene Christian (11-10, 5-8 LSC)
Up Next: at Angelo State • Saturday, Feb. 9 • 7:30 p.m.
COMMERCE, Texas – After trailing by double digits entering the second half, A&M-Commerce staged a furious rally in the closing seconds against Abilene Christian Wednesday evening. But the game-tying three pointer at the buzzer was wide left as the Wildcats hold off the Lions 60-57 at the Field House.
With the loss, A&M-Commerce falls to 11-10 overall and 4-7 in Lone Star Conference play, slipping below ACU into ninth in the LSC standings and are on the outside looking in when it comes to the 2013 Lone Star Conference tournament in March.
Preston Whitley once again led the A&M-Commerce offensive charge, but was held to just 11 points and seven rebounds on the night, hitting just four of his 12 field goal attempts. Devondrick Walker and Tyrie Wooten each recorded 10 points but shot a combined 7-of-20 from the floor.
Both teams struggled from the floor all evening as the Lions shot 35.7 percent, including hitting just six of their 25 attempts in the first half (24.0%), while Abilene Christian recorded a 38.2 percent clip from the floor. Both teams were 33.3 percent from three point range with Abilene Christian holding a 75 percent to 66.7 percent edge in free throws.
A&M-Commerce, which had been plagued by sluggish starts over the past month, came out the aggressor early, hitting back-to-back three-pointers to open the contest and building an early 11-4 lead with 13:30 remaining.
But a combination of cold shooting from the Lions and an aggressive offense from Abilene Christian combined to fuel an 18-0 run over the next seven minutes as A&M-Commerce once again found itself trailing by double digits in the first half as the Wildcats built a 22-11 advantage.
The teams were even down the stretch as ACU took a 30-18 lead into the locker room, with the 18 first half points the fewest in a half on the year for A&M-Commerce, falling short of the 22 it scored in the first half against Incarnate Word.
Abilene Christian continued to play at a high level early in the second half, extending its lead to a game-high 15 at 37-22 with 16:46 to play. But over the next seven minutes, the Lions began to slowly chip away at the lead, cutting the deficit to just two at 40-38 midway through the second half. The Wildcats would race back out to a 10-point lead off an 8-0 run and kept A&M-Commerce at bay for the majority of the final stretch.
Abilene Christian appeared to have the game in the bag, leading 58-51 with just 41 seconds left. But a three-pointer by Wooten cut the gap to four at 58-54. A pair of Wildcat free throws extended the lead to six at 60-54, which was then answered with a three from Whitley with nine seconds left, cutting the deficit to three at 60-57.
The Lions were then able to force an Abilene Christian turnover and the ball ended up in the hands of Wooten with time winding down. He fired a 30-foot three-pointer as time expired, but the shot hit the glass to the left of the rim, giving the Wildcats the victory in perhaps their final trip to the Field House.
With Abilene Christian moving to Division I next season, Wednesday night's game could very well have been the end of a long rivalry, extending back nearly 60 years. A&M-Commerce holds a 57-40 edge in the 97-game series as the victory by the Wildcats snaps a two-game Lion winning streak.
Elliott Lloyd led the way with 15 points and six rebounds for Abilene Christian, followed by a 14-point, 12-rebound performance by Dosh Simms and 12 points from Eric Lawton, who finished with a team-high five assists.
A&M-Commerce now finds itself on the outside looking in for the LSC Tournament with just seven games remaining in the 2012-13 season. It sets up a near must-win showdown with Angelo State Saturday in San Angelo as the Rams currently are just 2-11 in Lone Star Conference action. Opening tip at the Junell Center is set for 7:30 p.m. with full coverage (video, audio, stats) available at LionAthletics.com.