NCAA College Basketball

March Madness: 4 facts about the Abilene Christian men’s basketball team


Abilene Christian guard Jaylen Franklin, left, yells as guard Paul Hiepler (33) kisses the championship trophy after the team's NCAA college basketball game against New Orleans for the Southland Conference men's tournament title Saturday, March 16, 2019, in Katy, Texas.Abilene Christian forward Joe Pleasant (32) pulls in a rebound between New Orleans guard Bryson Robinson (4) and forward Scott Plaisance Jr., right, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game for the Southland Conference men's tournament title Saturday, March 16, 2019, in Katy, Texas.Abilene Christian guard Damien Daniels celebrates a 3-point shot in the final minute of the team's NCAA college basketball game against New Orleans for the Southland Conference men's tournament title Saturday, March 16, 2019, in Katy, Texas.Abilene Christian players hoist the championship trophy after defeating New Orleans in an NCAA college basketball game for the Southland Conference men's tournament title Saturday, March 16, 2019, in Katy, Texas.Abilene Christian guard Jaylen Franklin (0), guard Damien Daniels (4) and guard Payten Ricks (5) celebrate the team's lead in the final minute of an NCAA college basketball game against New Orleans for the Southland Conference men's tournament title Saturday, March 16, 2019, in Katy, Texas.New Orleans forward Scott Plaisance Jr. (55) slips as he attempts to drive around Abilene Christian forward Jaren Lewis during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game for the Southland Conference men's tournament championship Saturday, March 16, 2019, in Katy, Texas.New Orleans guard Damion Rosser (1) passes the ball over Abilene Christian forward Hayden Farquhar, front, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game for the Southland Conference men's tournament title Saturday, March 16, 2019, in Katy, Texas.Abilene Christian forward Hayden Farquhar (15) reaches for a rebound over New Orleans guard Larry Robinson III (20) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game for the Southland Conference men's tournament title Saturday, March 16, 2019, in Katy, Texas.Abilene Christian guard Jaylen Franklin, front, drives around New Orleans guard Troy Green, back, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game for the Southland Conference men's tournament title Saturday, March 16, 2019, in Katy, Texas.Replay

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Brooks Holton, Abilene Published 10:36 p.m. CT March 16, 2019 | Updated 10:50 p.m. CT March 16, 2019

If you’re looking for Cinderella stories this March Madness, look no further than the Abilene Christian men’s basketball team.

The Wildcats of the Southland Conference are making their first appearance in the NCAA Tournament since being promoted to the Division I level ahead of the 2013-14 season. 

Here are some things to know about ACU.

ACU claims first NCAA Tournament berth 

Abilene Christian guard Jaylen Franklin, front, drives around New Orleans guard Troy Green, back, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game for the Southland Conference men's tournament title Saturday, March 16, 2019, in Katy, Texas.

Abilene Christian guard Jaylen Franklin, front, drives around New Orleans guard Troy Green, back, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game for the Southland Conference men’s tournament title Saturday, March 16, 2019, in Katy, Texas. (Photo: Michael Wyke, AP)

After going 25-6 (14-4 Southland) during the 2018-19 regular season, Abilene Christian made its first appearance in the Southland Conference Tournament this spring as the No. 2 seed. 

The Wildcats proceeded to take Katy, Texas, by storm, winning a 69-66 thriller over third-seeded Southeastern Louisiana in the semifinals and cruising past No. 4 seed New Orleans 77-60 in the championship game. 

Abilene Christian dismissed its leading scorer from the roster in February 

ACU's Jalone Friday (21) is surrounded by the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi defense while shooting the ball. The Islanders held the 6-foot-9 center, ACU's leading scorer, to just five points. But the Wildcats won the Southland Conference game 78-71 on Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2019, at Moody Coliseum.Buy Photo

ACU’s Jalone Friday (21) is surrounded by the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi defense while shooting the ball. The Islanders held the 6-foot-9 center, ACU’s leading scorer, to just five points. But the Wildcats won the Southland Conference game 78-71 on Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2019, at Moody Coliseum. (Photo: Joey D. Richards/Abilene Reporter-News)

On Feb. 21, Abilene Christian announced two juniors, center Jalone Friday and guard B.J. Maxwell, had been dismissed from the team for “violating university policies.”

At the time of his dismissal, Friday led the Wildcats in scoring with an average of 13.1 points per game. He was named the Southland Conference’s Freshman of the Year during the 2016-17 season. 

Maxwell averaged 9.2 points per game and played an average of  26.8 minutes per game.

Jaren Lewis is the Abilene Christian leading scorer 

ACU's Jaren Lewis, center, shoots between two Incarnate Word defenders. The Wildcats won the game 81-51 on Saturday, March 9, 2019, at Moody Coliseum.Buy Photo

ACU’s Jaren Lewis, center, shoots between two Incarnate Word defenders. The Wildcats won the game 81-51 on Saturday, March 9, 2019, at Moody Coliseum. (Photo: Joey D. Richards/Abilene Reporter-News)

Jaren Lewis, a senior forward, led Abilene Christian in scoring during the 2018-19 regular season with an average of 13.5 points per game. Lewis, from Orlando, Florida, also averaged 6.2 rebounds per game and logged 19 blocks during the regular season. 

Lewis was named to the 2019 All-Southland Conference second team. He led the Wildcats with 20 points in the Southland Conference Tournament championship game. 

Coach Joe Golding is an ACU alum 

Joe Golding reacts after Payten Ricks hit a 3-point goal to pull ACU within seven (51-44) with 13:33 to play after trailing by 16 to Southeastern Louisiana. The Lions held on to beat ACU 75-66 in the Southland Conference game Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019 at Moody Coliseum.Buy Photo

Joe Golding reacts after Payten Ricks hit a 3-point goal to pull ACU within seven (51-44) with 13:33 to play after trailing by 16 to Southeastern Louisiana. The Lions held on to beat ACU 75-66 in the Southland Conference game Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019 at Moody Coliseum. (Photo: Joey D. Richards/Abilene Reporter-News)

Abilene Christian coach Joe Golding is in his seventh year as the head coach at his alma mater. Golding, a Wichita Falls, Texas, native, averaged 4.3 points and 4.2 assists per game during his four-year playing career with the Wildcats and graduated from ACU in 1999 with a bachelor’s degree in exercise and sport science. 

Golding rejoined ACU after a three-year stint as an assistant coach at Arkansas-Little Rock. He assumed the head-coaching position ahead of the 2011-12 season and coached the Wildcats through the transition into the Division I level.

Under Golding this season, the Wildcats have posted their highest win total (26) since the 2007-08 team won 20 games.

ACU's Joe Pleasant (32) shoots over Southeastern Louisiana's Maxewell Starwood. The Wildcats beat Southeastern Louisiana 69-66 in the Southland Conference Tournament semifinals Friday, March 15, 2019, at the Merrell Center in Katy.ACU's Jaren Lewis drives to the basket in the first half against Southeastern Louisiana. The Wildcats beat Southeastern Louisiana 69-66 in the Southland Conference Tournament semifinals Friday, March 15, 2019, at the Merrell Center in Katy.ACU's Payten Ricks, left, sails to the basket as Southeastern Louisiana's Von Julien defends in the first half. Ricks scored 14 of his game-high 21 points in the half. The Wildcats beat Southeastern Louisiana 69-66 in the Southland Conference Tournament semifinals Friday, March 15, 2019, at the Merrell Center in Katy.ACU's Jaylen Franklin, center, battles the Southeastern Louisiana defense for an offensive rebound. Franklin came down with the ball and was fouled on the play in the second half. The Wildcats beat Southeastern Louisiana 69-66 in the Southland Conference Tournament semifinals Friday, March 15, 2019, at the Merrell Center in Katy.ACU's Jaren Lewis (0) drives for a layup against Southeastern Louisiana. ACU won the game 69-66 in the Southland Conference Tournament semifinals Friday, March 15, 2019, at the Merrell Center in Katy.

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