ABILENE, Tx. — Payten Ricks may only be a freshman, but over the past three games, he isn’t playing like it’s his first year in the NCAA.
Coming into Saturday’s tilt with the Lamar Cardinals, the Abilene Christian Wildcats‘ freshman guard has averaged 12 points per contest, and he put up a career-high 15 points against the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks last week.
Against the Cardinals, the Wildcats were looking to avoid a 1-5 start in Southland Conference play, and they found themselves in a fight with Lamar that came down to the wire. With under 10 seconds to play, the Wildcats had a chance to win the game, avoiding an extra five-minute the frame.
The ball was in the hands of Ricks.
With the clock ticking down, Ricks put up a half-court heave that beat the buzzer. It banked off the back board, fell for his only three pointer, and the Wildcats stunned the Cardinals.
Abilene Christian sent their fans into a frenzy with their 67-64 win over Lamar.
It was the second time in less than a year that the Wildcats have stunned an opponent with a half-court buzzer-beater. Last season, then-freshman Jaren Lewis hit a three from close to half court to give Abilene Christian a win over the New Orleans Privateers.
Ricks finished the game with 7 points.
Ricks wasn’t the only freshman to play a key role in the win for the Wildcats on Saturday. Freshman forward Jalone Friday hit a three for the Wildcats with 18 seconds to play that tied the game at 64-all. After Joey Frenchwood committed a turnover for the Cardinals on the next possession, Ricks had the ball in his hands with a shot at the win.
If the Wildcats ever find themselves tied in the final seconds of a game in the future, give the ball to a freshman. That seems to work just fine for them.
Lamar held a nine-point lead after the first half, but were unable to maintain their lead down the stretch. Colton Weisbrod continued to be a leader for the Cardinals, recording a team-high 21 points to go along with 10 rebounds.
Dorian Chatman (16 points) and Lincoln Davis (12 points) provided a spark off the bench for Tic Price’s crew.
Friday scored a game-high 23 points for the Wildcats, with 8 coming in the final five minutes of the contest. The freshman also added 7 rebounds, and shot 7-of-12 from the field. Sophomore Jaylen Franklin added 9 points and 7 assists.
Abilene Christian went 7-of-16 from three point range, while Lamar went just 2-of-18.
Saturday marked the second win over the last three games for the Abilene Christian Wildcats (8-9, 2-4) following a five-game slide. They will look to keep things on the right track on Thursday night, when they open a two-game road swing against the Nicholls Colonels.
The loss brought an end to the modest two-game winning streak for the Lamar Cardinals (11-7, 3-2). They will look to break free from the logjam in the middle of the Southland standings on Thursday when they take on the Sam Houston State Bearkats.
– T. Bennett