SAGU tames Ponies, 81-70
Waco duo leads Lions to 16th win
Lions face Paul Quinn in Dallas on Monday
HOBBS, New Mexico -- Steered by two players who led the NAIA in scoring and rebounding a year ago, Southwestern Assemblies of God University charged past the University of the Southwest, 81-70, late Saturday afternoon.
The Mustangs, who had a winning home record in the Maddox Center, gave SAGU a battle during the game’s first 26 minutes. Tied at 52, the Lions pulled away on the strength of solid defense and rebounding.
Ronald Horne (Waco, Tx / Univ. of N.Texas, Waco HS) and Duce Ward (Waco, Tx / Univ. of N.Texas, Connally HS) spearheaded the attack, according to Head Coach Donnie Bostwick.
“Those two guys were huge tonight,” he said from the team bus afterwards. “Duce filled up the stat sheet with his best game of the season and Ron played outstanding defense. It was his best effort of the season on defense.”
Like one of Albuquerque’s hot-air balloons, Ward soared on Saturday. He scored a season-high 18-points and snatched a dozen missed shots out of the air. He also rejected three shots.
Ward converted six of his seven attempts from the floor and tickled the twine on all six of his tries from the foul line. His twelve rebounds was his second-best endeavor since latching on to 17 against Jarvis Christian College.
Horne, Ward: Protagonists lead, play differently
Last winter, while playing over 35 minutes per game, the 6’5 forward led the nation with 12.3 boards per contest. He had 13 or more caroms in 15 games last winter. Under a new system with a much deeper bench, he leads the Lions in rebounds again (7.3 rpg) while appearing in 19 minutes.
Horne’s role has changed vividly. After scoring 23.5 ppg in 36 minutes of PT, he currently contributes 8.4 ppg in 24 minutes. His shots per game have declined in half, from 16.1 to 8.0.
Regarded by opposing coaches as the best all-around player on the squad, this season the senior has displayed a myriad of skills, mostly leadership. He drew high praise from Bostwick following a game in which some of his best effects weren’t revealed in numbers.
“He made big plays when we needed them,” said the coach. “Ron broke down their double-teams consistently and had several assists. He played shutdown defense and had six rebounds.”
“Then, when Southwest drew to within five, he stepped up and took a charge that was the turning point,” recalled Bostwick. From there the Lions quickly reestablished a double-digit lead and were not threatened again. Caleb Feemster (Addison, Tx / Trinity Christian Academy) delivered a big shot in transition as Team Purp distanced themselves from the USW.
“Overall,” the Sooner-native assessed, “it was a good road win. This game shows that hard work pays off. The guys, especially the starters, displayed the stamina and real grit required to win.”
Corralling Mustangs with Defense
After taking a 42-40 lead into the locker room at intermission, SAGU turned up the heat on the defensive end. Southwest made 44% (17-of-38) of their shots in the first half, including five three-pointers and eight offensive rebounds.
The defensive adjustments were obvious. SAGU pulled the reins on the Pony Express, bridling them to the tune of a 31% (9-of-29) success rate over the course of the final twenty minutes. They were had their boardwork rationed down to four offensive rebounds.
Meanwhile, SAGU sank 18 of their 35 attempts (51%) in outscoring the Mustangs 41-28.
They finished the game by draining 32 of 69 (46%), while USW made 26 of 67 (38%). Both teams added eight triples. Officials allowed the players to play by calling few fouls (SAGU 16, USW 14); with the Mustangs tossing in 10-of-14 free throws to SAGU’s 9-of-13.
Road Warriors or Road Kill
Life on the road in conference play is “as hard a describing the taste of an oyster,” as longtime Sportswriter and Texan Dan Jenkins once said.
The win in Hobbs, one the Lions sweated to earn, was just the team’s second in their past six road tests.
Knotted at 52, Coach Bostwick’s team upped the volume on their playmakers while tightening their defensive clamps.
“We made three defensive stops in a row that really fueled the offense,” he said.
Speed Kills, Dunks Thrill
Facing a zone defense the Mustangs threw at them, the Lions began finding creases and narrow streets to attack. Dominique Rambo (Dallas, Tx / Oklahoma Wesleyan, Trinity Christian School), fast as a cheetah with a hotfoot, got it going inside. Soon, Jon Walter (Garland, Tx / Garland HS) and Ward found success driving for baskets.
Rambo, who had seven assists, then went off the charts with a backbreaking play.
He flipped a lob dressed in a trench coat as a midrange runner. Elevated as though bumped by cactus, Ward snared the “alley” and slammed a fisted “oop” for a rim-shaking jam.
With results that nice, Ward did it twice. He followed a missed shot with a thunderous dunk on the putback. The Jungle Kings would not be beat from that point on.
Rambo led with 21 points, two steals and a blocked shot.
As for Horne, a first team RRAC All-Conference selection in 2011, he tallied four points. He didn't need to dominate the scoreboard to produce a win. Two of his six rebounds were on offense, and he played errorless in tandem with Ward, his Waco sidekick.
Nine games remain in the regular season. Five home games against the likes of Texas Wesleyan (17-4), Our Lady of the Lake (18-4), LSU-Shreveport (16-6), Texas College (13-9) and St. Thomas (14-8) could well afford encore showings by Horne and Ward. Those five teams join SAGU as the league’s top six in the standings.
Walter made all five of his field goal attempts, two from beyond the arc, during a 12-point night. He pulled down five rebounds and drew a charge late in the game.
Craig Grigsby’s (Houston, Tx / Glenda Dawson) floor game was thorough. He made six of his seven shots, including two-of-three from long distance to finish with 16 points. The sophomore guard collected three rebounds, two assists in a foul-plagued 22 minutes.
The normally effective second rotation (4-of-24 shooting) was limited in their good deeds.
Jared Gibson (Dallas, Tx / Oral Roberts Univ, Plano West HS), fulfilling the character as three-point assassin, knocked off another stroke from remoteness. Christian Wood-Dvorak (Halletsville, Tx / Halletsville HS) added eight rebounds.
SAGU controlled the boards against the taller Mustangs, 46-34, grabbing 15 of their own misses. It was the fourth straight ‘far trek’ that had a happy ending against the Hobbs squad.
Lions and Tigers on Monday
The Lions next game is much closer. On Monday they will take on Paul Quinn College (7-15 overall, 6-10 in RRAC) in southeast Dallas (3837 Simpson Stuart Road) at 7:30pm. The Tigers have won three of their past four games and are 5-4 at the Tiger's Den.
Paul Quinn leads the all-time series, 7-5, including the past three encounters before this season. SAGU won the first meeting on January 14, 76-63.