Lions rally past #17 Tarleton State, 73-60
Texans held to 21% second-half shooting
SAGU overcomes 16-point deficit for big win
STEPHENVILLE, Texas -- The Southwestern Assemblies of God University men’s basketball team, on the verge of being routed in the first half, regrouped and pulled off a stunning 73-60 triumph over nationally ranked Tarleton State University on Tuesday night.
SAGU, now 2-0, looked anything but a giant-killer when they found themselves in a 25-9 hole with 6:48 remaining before intermission.
“It sure didn’t look good,” said a satisfied Head Coach Donnie Bostwick on the two hour bus-ride home. “Another few baskets by Tarleton would’ve buried us.”
Instead, the second year coach urged his team to keep battling. “We were playing very good defense,” he said, “but the Texans kept hitting big shots.”
Few among the thousands on hand at the venerable Wisdom Gymnasium would have given the Lions much of a chance against the NCAA Division II’s #17 ranked team.
The Texans hadn’t lost a season-opener since 2001 and owned a 265-51 home record under veteran Head Coach Lonn Reisman.
Junior guard Dominique Rambo (Dallas, Tx / Oklahoma Wesleyan Univ., Trinity Christian School) converted a tip-in, a layup and a triple. Then, sophomore forward Mike Nwelue (Lewisville, Tx / Lewisville HS) turned in a clutch blocked shot to make-up for his own turnover.
Jonathan Walter (Garland, Tx / Garland HS), a sophomore guard/forward, ripped a three on a Nwelue assist, senior James Ford (Victoria, Tx / Faith Academy) rattled a jumper and the Lions inched their way back to within 35-25 at the break.
“You have to give all of the credit in the world to Southwestern [Assemblies of God] tonight,” said Tarleton’s Coach Reisman on his school's athletic website.
“We came out and got a big lead on them, but you have to give them credit for staying in the game and competing like they did tonight.”
Second Half Comeback
The second stanza witnessed the Lions man-to-man defense and occasional press turn up the heat on the Texans.
SAGU’s trademarks of all-out hustle and crashing the offensive boards began providing second-chance opportunities.
Caleb Gentry (Hondo, Tx / Oklahoma Wesleyan Univ., Hondo HS) swished a pair of foul shots to cap a 9-3 surge coming out of the locker room and the Lions were within three with 16:47 on the clock.
SAGU, limited to 31% shooting in the first half, compared to the Texans 50%, were officially back in the game.
After a dunk by Tarleton’s Damion Clemons lifted the hosts to a 45-39 margin, Southwestern responded with a 7-0 run.
Nwelue (pronounced like DWELL-way) knocked down a perimeter jumper, forcing the Texans to extend their defense to cover the quicker, more agile Lions.
Walter buried a trey on the team’s ensuing trip down the floor for a 49-45 SAGU lead to keep the Texans on their heels.
Ford netted two free throws and a huge three-ball following a pass from Rambo to spark 14 unanswered points by the Lions.
Freshman forward Emmanuel Adoyi (Little Rock, Ark / Parkview HS) stroked two from the charity stripe and then added a tip-in for a 62-49 upper-hand at the 6:34 mark.
The Lions didn’t allow a Texans basket for nearly eight minutes. The Purple Pride, meanwhile, stretched their advantage to 17 (66-49) on a Nwelue jumper.
It was a complete reverse of fortune, outscoring Tarleton State 57-24 since the sixteen-point deficit.
SAGU squeezed the Texans into 21.4% (6-of-28) shooting in the second half, and outrebounded them in both halves, and 41-30 for the game. The Lions, who ranked in the NAIA’s Top 5 in offensive rebounds last season, grabbed a 15-11 edge in this game.
During the final twenty minutes the visitors made good on 12-of-25 (52%) of their shots, 4-of-7 threes and 18-of-23 free throws.
For the game SAGU finished at 41% (21-51), 7-of-19 from long distance and 24 of 31 from the foul line. Turnovers were a wash, the Lions making 15, the Texans 14.
“Our guys handled adversity very well tonight,” praised Coach Bostwick. “We were able to press and they had to adjust to our speed, which gave us match-up advantages.”
“I am proud of the guys for the way they stayed together instead of unraveling under pressure.”
The two-time NAIA National Coach of the Year spoke with a voice that was as sweet as a candy-dipper’s handshake.
Rambo led all scorers with 25 points. His stat line was a picture of solid play. Eight of 15 shots, including 4-of-9 from downtown, five free throws, four assists, five steals and one turnover.
Nwelue continues his great play with 17 points (6-of-10 shots) and 10 rebounds. Walter netted eight points and seven boards, while Ford added seven and eight, respectively.
Gentry contributed six points, all from the foul line, and three steals in 19 minutes. Adoyi (pronounced like a-BOY) tossed in six.
Coach Bostwick was high on the play of Devante Dunn (Wills Point, Tx / Wills Point HS). The 6’4 guard registered four points, five rebounds – three of them on the offensive glass, and two assists.
SAGU limited the Texans post players to three points and outscored the hosts in the paint by a 16-14 count.
This was the third meeting between the schools, all since 2008. A year ago, then ranked #8 Tarleton State caged the Lions with a 79-68 score.
Upcoming Schedule includes "Can't Miss" Thanksgiving Date
The Lions, ranked #26 in the NAIA, returns to the hard-court this weekend when they travel to Sterling, Kansas for the Sterling Classic.
On Friday they will face Tabor College at 4:00pm before going up against the Sterling College on Saturday at 7:30pm.
The Blue Jays are off to an 0-5 start while the Sterling Warriors, who dropped a narrow 76-72 decision in Waxahachie last spring, are 2-2.
Next Monday night, November 19, SAGU is at Dallas Christian College.
The team’s next home date is a giant clash of nationally ranked teams. Westmont College (2-0), of Irvine, California, visits the Sheaffer Center for a 5:00pm game on Saturday, Nov. 24.
SAGU’s area students and fans are urged to make the effort to pack the gym on a holiday weekend.
After tonight’s big win, promotion may not be a problem.