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.
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. (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. (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. (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. (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.
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