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Abilene Christian flusters Texas, grabs historic upset win

The Wildcats march on to face UCLA.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Abilene Christian at Texas Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The whole country learned what Southland fans know well on Saturday night: playing against Abilene Christian is hell.

Joe Golding’s tenacious defensive attack flustered Texas, forcing the Longhorns into a season-high 23 turnovers and grabbing a historic 53-52 win. The No. 14 over No. 3 upset gave ACU its first NCAA Tournament win in program history, and sets up a match with UCLA on Monday with a spot in the Sweet 16 on the line.

The tone was set early, with the Wildcats forcing 12 first half turnovers that kept them within spitting distance at half (28-23), despite shooting just 30.3 percent themselves. The game looked to be getting away from ACU immediately out of the break, as Texas opened a nine-point lead and seemed poised to assert itself against the smaller in-state foe.

In the end, that couldn’t have been further from the truth.

Reggie Miller and the Wildcats’ swarming, scrambling defense locked down the Longhorns on the perimeter, engineering a nearly five minute scoring drought beginning at the 16 minute mark. This flipped control of the game to ACU, with Miller (7 points) and fellow senior guard Coryon Mason (11 points) banking in multiple circus shots against the Longhorns defense.

Texas was able to stay close in an ugly game, with Andrew Jones hitting a go-ahead three to the Longhorns up 52-51 with 14 seconds left.

ACU countered with a brave drive from Miller, whose shot was blocked but rebounded by Joe Pleasant (11 points), who was fouled on the putback. Pleasant — a 58.5 percent free throw shooter — endured a Texas timeout and brief clock review to calmly sink the winning throws.

A failed Texas heave cemented a monumental win for an ACU program that joined the Division I ranks in 2013. The Wildcats made their NCAA Tournament debut in 2019, getting a 15-seed and falling by 35 points to Kentucky in the first round.

The result was much different this time around, and the Southland Tournament champs get a shot at another blue blood with a bigger prize on the line.