Just after the clock struck midnight Sunday, the rest of the sports world was discovering what Wildcat fans already knew: The Abilene Christian University men’s basketball team meant business and its defense could keep up with some of the nation’s best teams – and then some.
No. 14-seed Abilene Christian’s upset of No. 3-seed University of Texas at Austin, 53-52, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Indianapolis set off a flurry of online activity.
“Abilene Christian” was the top trending topic in the U.S. on Twitter as fans took to social media after junior forward Joe Pleasant’s last-second, game-winning free throws. Senior guard Paul Hiepler’s animated reactions were widely shared. Actress Gabrielle Union was spotted tweeting about ACU, and Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes gave a shout-out to former Chiefs teammate Charcandrick West (’14), an ACU football standout from 2010-13.
The increased attention briefly crashed the university’s sports website as people flocked to find out more about the Wildcats. And reporters around the nation posted story after story chronicling the upset.
Here’s a look at what people around college basketball have been saying since Saturday’s game and ahead of Monday’s second-round matchup against No. 11-seed UCLA:
“This was a long time coming, and [Joe] Pleasant pumped his other arm with a grin to acknowledge the couple-hundred, very vocal fans who had gathered in Indy for this moment. They’ll stick around, too, as Abilene Christian will face No. 11 seed UCLA on Monday for a very attainable trip to the Sweet 16.”
– Jeremy Woo, Sports Illustrated
“We have not played anybody that plays anywhere near the way [the Wildcats] play the game. They’re going to dictate the way the game is played. There’s nothing you can do about it.”
– Mick Cronin, UCLA head coach
“Abilene Christian can play. And I just think it’s great for basketball seeing the Davids, the Goliaths going head to head. That’s what makes March Madness so special. It’s awesome! It’s awesome, baby!”
– Dick Vitale, ESPN college basketball analyst, on SportsCenter
“Pulling off one final upset in a first round filled with two years’ worth of excitement, Abilene Christian (24-4) became the fourth team seeded 13th or lower to reach the round of 32 in this NCAA tournament, joining 15th-seeded Oral Roberts and No. 13 seeds Ohio and North Texas.”
– Tim Booth, The Associated Press
“Abilene Christian is really, really good at defense. The No. 14-seeded Wildcats pulled off a shocking upset of Texas by forcing the Longhorns into a season-high 23 turnovers. Abilene Christian didn’t beat the Big 12 Tournament champion with hot shooting. Coach Joe Golding uses a stifling defense that leads the nation in turnover margin to discomfort opponents and take them out of their rhythm.”
“Texas didn’t have an answer for ACU’s no-holds-barred pressure defense in the second half. After starting the half on a quick 4-0 run to take their largest lead of the ballgame, the Longhorn offense went deathly quiet for nearly six minutes.”
– Stephen Wagner, The Dallas Morning News
“Ain’t no party like an Abilene party.”
– Dan Wetzel, Yahoo Sports columnist, on Twitter
Follow the Wildcats during March Madness at acu.edu/champions.
– Robin Saylor
Mar. 22, 2021