Men's Bucketeers Win Opener, 69-66
Defense bites Drovers, force 31 turnovers
Rambo, Horne, Wood-Dvorak lead team-effort
SHAWNEE, Oklahoma -- The Southwestern Assemblies of God University men’s basketball team opened the season with a hard-fought, 69-66 triumph over the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma on Friday night at the St. Gregory’s Classic.
The Lions won the game by outscoring USAO 59-43 from the field, holding them to 35% shooting. What helped SAGU maintain their 36-34 halftime lead throughout the second half was a team-effort on defense according to head coach Donnie Bostwick .
“It was a very good team-game,” he said afterwards. “It was close throughout and they battled back and forth. The guys really got after it,” he added in his energetic, Southern-style.
The Lions played an aggressive man-to-man defense. They made 18 steals and forced 31 turnovers, including several at the end of the game to preserve the lead.
USAO drew to within one point in the closing minutes. Sophomore Dominique Rambo (Dallas, Tx / Oklahoma Wesleyan, Trinity Christian-CH), a point guard, knocked down a huge three-pointer with 3:30 to play. Refusing to surrender the lead, SAGU (1-0) made several steals down the stretch.
When Ronald Horne (Waco, Tx / Univ of N. Texas, Waco HS) stroked a free throw for a 69-66 advantage with 0:17 remaining, the Lions did not allow a final shot. Jonathan Walter (Garland, Tx / Garland HS) tipped one pass away before coming up with a loose ball to seal the deal.
The squad found a way to win while being outrebounded, 46-37, by the taller Drovers, who started players of 6’9 and 6’10 inside. Eight different SAGU players had three rebounds or more, which spoke volumes of the team’s collective efforts.
Added to that was foul trouble. Duce Ward (Waco, Tx / Univ of N. Texas, Connally HS) and Mike Nwelue (Lewisville, Tx / Lewisville HS), who started at forward and center, both were forced to the bench for stages of the game as the Lions were whistled for 25 of the game’s 43 personal fouls. Nwelue (pronounced NEW-el-way) scored four points and pulled down three caroms.
“I tell you,” Bostwick continued, “I am so proud of the way the guys fought. They dove for loose balls, and made so many hustle plays. They added up at the end. Ronald (Horne) took a key charge down the stretch. Those are the difference-makers.”
“These guys did exactly what I asked of them. I am proud of the way they pulled together and found a way when adversity set in,” the new head coach added. “They battled through adversity.”
Ward, who led the NAIA in rebounds last season, strapped with fouls, was held to four points and four rebounds. Still, he managed three steals and blocked a shot.
Plus, Horne was the object of the Drovers defense. The defending NAIA scoring champion was covered like a Southern fried steak is with gravy. The senior leader was limited to 10 shots, hitting five, to finish with 13 points. He drained his only attempt beyond the arc and compensated with five rebounds.
Two players who had the best statistical performances were wearing purple and gold for the first time.
Rambo, who was granted a release from Oklahoma Wesleyan and followed the coach who recruited him from Texas, led all scorers with 31-points. He had six triples and six assists.
What was most striking in his stat sheet was his defensive intensity. The 5-foot-10 hoopster was credited with ten steals. Bostwick described his defensive effectiveness simply. “He was a machine,” he said.
Christian Wood-Dvorak (Halletsville, Tx / Halletsville HS), a 6’5 freshman forward, netted eight points, including 2-for-2 in treys. He yanked down five boards and blocked a shot.
SAGU Team Totes
The Lions made 41% of their shots, and 37% (9-of-24) of their three-point attempts. By making only 10 of 21 from the charity stripe, Southwestern gave reason for extended free throw practice. They led the conference in that category last winter when they stroked .727 from the foul line.
“Our guys just gutted one out,” Bostwick concluded.
Lions play St. Gregory's on Saturday at 3:00pm
They may need a similar work ethic on Saturday night when they take on the tourney host, St. Gregory’s University. The Cavaliers stunned 4th ranked LSU-Shreveport on Friday night, 79-75. The Pilots were 30-4 last season. Southwestern will take on SGU at 3:00pm.
They return to the court on Tuesday when the Lions meet Dallas Christian College in Richardson. The tipoff is set for 7:30pm.