HOUSTON – HBU trailed visiting Abilene Christian by 16 five minutes into the second half but clawed back to take a lead less than nine minutes later but ultimately dropped a heartbreaker to the Wildcats, 66-63, on Wednesday night.
The Huskies (2-8, 1-1 SLC) got on the scoreboard on the first possession of the game with Za-Ontay Boothman drawing a foul on a three-point attempt and making two of three from the foul line. Myles Pierre then dropped a layup in the hoop for a quick 4-0 lead before ACU (10-2, 2-0 SLC) answered with the next two buckets to even it up.
Abilene Christian would quickly use a six-point burst to go ahead 10-7 at the 15:36 mark but HBU had an answer, going on a 9-2 run over the next four minutes for a 16-12 advantage. Over the final 11:33 of the period, however, the Wildcats would out-score the Huskies 26-10 for a 38-26 lead at the intermission.
In the early-going of the second half, the Huskies would get back to within 10 a couple of times but ACU pushed its lead to its highest point in the game after a Joe Pleasant dunk made it 48-32 with 15 minutes on the clock. Three and a half minutes later, ACU’s Clay Gayman knocked down a three that brought the score to 55-42.
Over the ensuing 4:50 of game time, HBU forced the Wildcats into five turnovers and went on a 14-0 run that was part of a larger 19-3 stretch and was capped by Darius Lee’s second-consecutive basket. With the Huskies leading 56-55, ACU’s Damien Daniels made a pair of free throws with Lee then making one of two free throws of his own a minute later, knotting the score at 57-57 with under 5:00 to go.
Coryon Mason nailed a three with two minutes left that put the Huskies down five, 62-57, but Lee would hit a layup in transition following a steal while getting fouled and make his free throw attempt to pull HBU back within two. Daniels answered for the Wildcats with a layup with just over a minute on the clock but the Huskies’ Pedro Castro drilled a three 15 seconds later to again make it a one-point game with less than a minute to go.
The Huskies then forced a tough three attempt by Daniels but ACU managed to get the offensive board and Reggie Miller made both his attempts from the line with eight seconds left. Miller then came up with a steal on the Huskies’ final possession to end the game.
HBU forced ACU into 11 turnovers in the second half while committing just seven. The Huskies also connected on 52.2 percent from the floor, 44.4 percent from three, and 81.8 percent from the foul line in the second period after shooting just 28.6 percent overall and 20 percent from deep in the first.
Boothman led the Huskies with 22 points on 6-of-19 shooting, making 7-of-9 from the foul line. Castro posted his third double-double of the season, finishing with 13 points and 10 rebounds. The junior was 5-of-9 from the field and 3-of-4 from three and also added three blocked shots. Lee ended the game with 12 points, three blocked shots, three steals, and three rebounds.
The Huskies shot 39.2 percent (20-of-51) from the field, 31.6 percent (6-of-19) from deep, and 77.3 percent (17-of-22) from the charity stripe. HBU also ended the game with nine blocked shots, the highest total by an HBU team since the 2017-18 season. ACU won the battle of the boards, 44-29.
The Huskies will hit the road for their next two beginning this Saturday, Jan. 9, when they head east to Beaumont, Texas for a 2:00 p.m. tip-off at Lamar.