SAGU stuns #5 OLLU, 106-80
Team-effort, frenzied crowd impact the game
Lions' first-ever win over an NAIA team ranked so high
WAXAHACHIE, Texas -- Making thirteen three-pointers or 100-points has pacified the hungry masses in the Sheaffer Center in the past. But what the SAGU Lions have been hungering for has been a tougher catch than a greased antelope on the savannah.
Beating a nationally-ranked opponent in the past would be a highlight in any season. This year, however, the men’s basketball team at Southwestern Assemblies of God University have hungered for a big win to validate the progress they’ve made.
After losing a heart-breaker to the NAIA’s #13 rated Texas Wesleyan University, 61-58, two days earlier, and the odds of knocking off #5 Our Lady of the Lake University on Saturday was very unlikely.
The Lions, however, parlayed that setback as wind in their sails, and devoured the Saints in convincing fashion, much to the delight of a near-packed home crowd. The 106-80 triumph was no accident or fluke, and will certainly get them a place at the table where the big dogs eat.
OLLU Coach: The Lions are hungry
“They’re playing hungry,” said OLLU’s Russell Vanlandingham after exiting his team’s locker room. “They are young and peaking at the right time.”
“They were flying all night, guarding and diving,” he continued. “They look like we looked last semester. SAGU is playing for something larger than a good season. They want a berth in the NAIA tournament. I will tell you this; they are one of, if not the hardest playing team in the league.”
High praise from a coach whose own team usually fits the same description.
The Saints entered the game as the nation’s top scoring offense, averaging 98 points per game. Eleven times the Halos have eclipsed the 100-point mark, and another nine times they scored 90+. They are also #1 in making three-point baskets per game at 12 per.
In their 120-98 triumph over Wesleyan, they fired in 22 triples.
Ronald Horne (Waco, Tx / Univ. of N.Texas, Waco HS), a senior guard who has seen his share of great efforts that came up short, was in his element from the start. On the game’s first possession, he took a pass from Dominique Rambo (Dallas, Tx / Oklahoma Wesleyan Univ, Trinity Christian School) and wristed a 3-ball from the corner. Game on!
His next shot, which was set up on a dish from Jonathan Walter (Garland, Tx / Garland HS); he nailed another triple to put Southwestern in the lead, 10-7, just 1:48 into the game. They would never relinquish it.
On a night when the ‘team’ easily outshone individuals, he was the triggerman at point guard. Sometimes referred to as the “Flyin’ Lion,” he distributed the ball (six assists), had four offensive rebounds (six total) and connected on six of his eight shots.
It looked effortless by the player who led the NAIA in scoring last year (23.5 ppg). After averaging 16.1 shots per game as a junior, he’s taking just 8.6 this year. While his season best was a 27-point game in November, his energy and style resembled the Horne of last winter.
He stroked 4-of-5 from long distance and tied Craig Grigsby (Houston, Tx / Glenda Dawson HS) for game-high honors in points with 19, though he played in just 22 minutes compared to Grigsby’s 33. Grigsby also tied his six assist total.
Rambo, who left the game early in the second half with a leg injury (he is not expected to play on Monday), was held to seven points on 3-of-9 shooting in 18 minutes. He dished out four helpers.
SAGU Coach Bostwick's post-game comments
hiFirst year head coach Donnie Bostwick was busy glad-handing after the game.
“Our players deserve all the credit,” he chimed in. “And I know they would like for me to give God all the glory for the strength and courage to play such a fearless game tonight.”
“I have been waiting for us to turn the corner,” the Oklahoma native said. “It felt good to see us execute and enjoy the battle.”
“We had a unified effort from every member of our University. The crowd - especially the student body; the Media Department - led by John Cookman; the cheerleaders led by Coach (Alicia) Rogers; the training staff led by Jaroy (Carpenter), and I could go on and on. It was SAGU Basketball representing the King!”
“Everyone played well and we were able to defeat a very good team tonight.” He pointed out. “They play so hard and are ranked no. 5 nationally for a reason. We are striving to be at that level.”
The Lions, who are now 18-6 in all games and 12-6 in contests against teams in the Red River Athletic Conference, remain in fifth place. OLLU is 20-5 and 17-2. The Saints won the earlier meeting against SAGU, 98-79, in the Mabee Gym in San Antonio, and led the series 5-0 until Saturday.
“We will come in Sunday night, have a devotion and get ready for Monday's trip (to Langston),” Coach Bostwick continued. “There’s not much time to enjoy this one, but I believe there is more where that came from! We just have to continue focusing on the little details while praising our King!”
Monday Night Hoops; SAGU Lions -vs- LU Lions
SAGU will have little time to stay satiated from the win as they travel 270 miles to north-central Oklahoma on Monday. There, they will tangle with the Langston University Lions at 7:30pm.
Langston is 6-18 overall and 6-13 in the Red River. While they have dropped nine of their previous eleven matches, five of the setbacks had a final margin of ten or less points.
SAGU has won their last three encounters with LU, including two at the C.F. Gayles Fieldhouse. Those two triumphs were by 81-79 last season and 90-89 the year before. New coach Nigel Thomas will have his ‘Cats ready. They routed Bacone College, 83-65, on the road on Saturday.
Inspired by an energetic home crowd and a section (The Jungle) that stood throughout the game, the Purple Pride seemed to feed off their verve.
Team Stats - Comparing Halves
In building a 54-45 halftime lead, SAGU drained 16-of-33 shots (48%) while holding the Saints to 12-of-35 (34%) accuracy. The Lions, who are fifth in the NAIA in threes per game, had eight of their 15 bombs by intermission while OLLU had connected on seven of their 13.
The two teams were shooting every 18 seconds, enough to give fans whiplash.
The second half saw the Lions amp up their productivity, while Our Lady cooled midway into the second stanza. SAGU sizzled, firing in 17-of-29 (59%) attempts as the Blue Halos struggled to find their range. The Saints had plenty of good looks at the basket, but sank only 11-of-33 (33%).
Coach Vanlandingham cited SAGU’s 45-30 dominance on the boards as an indicator of their passion. “They get after it,” he said. “They don’t let their lack of height keep them from playing tall.”
Junior guard Eddie Ortiz, one of the Saints’ three-point assassins; he had four, agreed. “Rebounding. That was the main difference,” he said while resting in the bleachers. “We had our chances, but we just couldn’t get our shots to fall. As for the officiating, they were fine. No problems with them.”
Another talented player for Our Lady was forward Ricardo Zanini. “SAGU played really well tonight,” he said. “They rebounded stronger than us.”
While the game was played with full throttle intensity, the sportsmanship between the teams was exemplary during and after the contest. As for the impact the crowd had on the game, Zanini commented that “they sure helped SAGU a lot!”
Free throws, unlike the first game, were not a factor. SAGU was uncommonly hot there as well, making 25-of-31 (81%) to OLLU’s 21-of-27 (78%).
Southwestern scoring had five players reach double-digits; Horne 19, Grigsby 19, Walter 16, guard James Ford (Victoria, Tx / Faith Academy) 15 and Caleb Feemster (Addison, Tx / Trinity Christian Academy) 13.
Mike Nwelue (Lewisville, Tx / Lewisville HS) hit 4-of-5 shots to score eight, while Rambo netted seven and Nathaniel Duce Ward (Waco, Tx / Univ. of N.Texas, Connally HS) was credited with six points. He had a game-high nine boards in only 21 minutes of playing time. Horne and Christian Wood-Dvorak (Halletsville, Tx / Halletsville HS) each grabbed six.
The Lions’ parade of three-pointers included six who ripped the nets; Horne 4-of-5, Feemster 4-6, Grigsby 2-4, Walter 2-4, Ford 2-6 and Maurice Oglesby (Arlington, Tx / Zion Academy) 1-1.
Feemster’s trey, on a Horne feed, gave the Lions a 101-77 lead at 2:06, when Bostwick emptied the bench. Oglesby (O-guls-bee) wristed his triple from the right wing at 0:52 on a Feemster dime that closed out the game’s scoring.
OLLU placed three men in double-figures; Arthur Govan with 13-points, and both Mike Brown and Ortiz at 12. Adonis Sousa and Marco Cooper had nine and eight points respectively.
Of the numerous highlights in the game, here are several memorable ones;
Ford, after missing on a long-distance call, hustled downcourt, leapt and stole a pass inside the free throw line. It set-up a baseline drive for a bucket by Horne, who then spotted Grigsby cutting down the lane for a runner and a 77-54 lead.
After Cooper spun inside from the low blocks to cut the deficit to 77-58, the Lions put the game on ice with a 12-5 run. Ward made a 3-point play when Walter stole the ball and pitched it to him on a 2-1 break. The and-one shot made it 80-58 with 10:49 to go.
Feemster, who is healthy again, launched a 3-ball from the corner pocket on a Walter assist (85-58), and then, after Ford sank a pair from the charity stripe, he took a kickout pass from Horne and filled-it-up from outside the arc for a 90-63 advantage at 6:20.
Ward and Nwelue (NEW-ELL-uh-WAY) recorded shot blocks, though the Saints countered by making five threes in an eight minute stretch.
Updates: Sponsors Coupons and Returning Players
For making 13 three-point baskets, everyone who attended the game received a coupon for six free wings at the Waxahachie Buffalo Wild Wings with a purchase. The Lions also went over 100-points. For that incentive, Taco Bell issued coupons following the game to insure that fans receive a free taco with a purchase.
That took care of the fans’ hunger. The scoreboard helped placate the team.
Southwestern had to play sans Jared Gibson (Dallas, Tx / Oral Roberts Univ., Plano West HS) and Adam Martinez (Mansfield, Tx / Mansfield HS), who both had to miss the game. They are expected back for Monday’s tilt with Langston.
Six Games Remaining; three at home
After playing Langston, SAGU’s next contest is Thursday, February 16. They will travel east to face Jarvis Christian College in Hawkins, Texas.
The club will entertain red-hot LSU-Shreveport (18-6, 16-3 in RRAC) next Saturday, Feb. 18. The Pilots, ranked #18, have a 10-game winning streak.