ABILENE, Texas (UCA) -Abilene Christian scored the game-winning basket on a goal-tending call with no time left to hand the University of Central Arkansas Bears a heart-breaking 73-72 loss on Saturday afternoon at Moody Coliseum.
UCA, which led by as much as 12 points earlier in the game, allowed ACU to take the lead 71-70 on a pair of free throws by guard Parker Wentz with just 21 seconds to play. UCA sophomore forward Tirrell Brown scored on the other end to put the Bears back in front with just three seconds left.
But Wentz, a gutty 5-foot-9 sophomore guard, drove the length of the floor for what looked to be an uncontested layup. Brown stepped in and blocked the attempt but it was ruled the shot was on the way down, which was confirmed by video review, giving the Wildcats the victory.
"It's disappointing because we thought we had two winnable games on this road trip,' said UCA head coach Clarence Finley. "We couldn't get over the hump on Thursday (at Incarnate Word). We got over it today but we just couldn't get the stops at the end of the ballgame. We should have got a rebound at the end when they missed two free throws.
"And if we'd just stayed in front of their little guard at the end. But we didn't and it came down to a goal tending call. I wasn't able to tell but they reviewed it and said the basket was good. But it shouldn't have come down to that if we could have just put together a couple of stops.
"We had them on the ropes, a couple of times, but we let them off. Every time they found a way to get to our basket.'
Wentz, who led the Wildcats (7-10, 1-3) with 21 points, helped them overcome a 12-point, first-half deficit by shooting 51.7 percent from the field in the second half. UCA was up by as much as 10 points midway through the second half, and had a 7-point advantage as late as the 3:12 mark.
But the Wildcats outscored the Bears 10-2 over the final three minutes, with Wentz going 4 for 4 at the line. Trailing 70-69, ACU's Austin Cooke was fouled and missed twice at the line, but grabbed his own rebound and UCA fouled Wentz a second time.
The Bears (4-12, 1-4) cruised to a 36-31 halftime lead, despite making just 4 of 15 from the free-throw line in the first 20 minutes. UCA shot 55.6 percent from the field, however, with seven different players in the scoring column, led by Miles' nine points.
UCA led by as much as 12 points before the Wildcats cut it to just five with a conventional three-point play in the final seconds. The Bears forced the Wildcats into 12 first-half turnovers, with Miles recording four steals.
For the game, UCA made just 8 of 20 from the free-throw line but shot a season-high 53.6 percent from the field.
"The difference in the game was 8 of 20 from the free-throw line,' said Finley. "We were 4 of 15 in the first half, and you just can't do that. If , and I say if, we had hit half of those, we win the ballgame. You just can't win many ballgames when you shoot 40 percent from the line.'
Miles had 19 points and DeShone McClure 13. Michael Grant chipped in 17 and Julian Edmonson 15 for ACU.