No. 28 Lions hold off #12 Wesleyan, 75-73
Duce Ward dunk breaks 72-72 tie
Road win is first-ever against Rams
FORT WORTH, Texas -- Monday night’s winner of a college basketball game between two teams who are ranked in the current National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Coaches Poll was long overdue.
No. 12 Texas Wesleyan University had long enjoyed a mastery over No. 28 Southwestern Assemblies of God University.
The Rams entered the game riding a 14-game winning streak over SAGU, and had yet to lose to them at home.
The Lions extended a 41-25 halftime lead to 50-27, then held off a furious rally to post a 75-73 triumph on the road.
The Rams had a 29-2 record against the Lions during the tenure of their former coach, Terry Waldrop.
They erupted during a 27-9 surge to tie the score at 72 with twenty-four seconds left in the game.
SAGU wasted little time to recapture the upper-hand. Seven seconds later sophomore Mike Nwelue (Lewisville, Tx / Lewisville HS), a sophomore, lobbed a pass to senior forward Nathaniel Duce Ward (Waco, Tx / N.Texas State Univ., Connally HS).
Playing in just his third game this season, Ward snared the pass and rammed a two-fisted dunk through the cylinder for a lead they would not relinquish. The alley-oop play was the defining moment for the Lions. Ward provided the exclamation mark!
Ward, who led the NAIA in rebounds as a sophomore, added to his list of game-deciding plays. Last year in the RRAC tournament it was his steal and breakaway jam in the final ten seconds that iced a nail-biting win against St. Thomas.
The Rams had two more chances to tie the score. First, senior Oscar Griffin split a pair of free throws with 0:11 on the clock, to draw to within 74-73.
Sophomore Jonathan Walker (Garland, Tx / Garland HS) duplicated Griffin’s free throw effort to finish the scoring.
Wesleyan, with seven seconds showing on the clock, sped the ball upcourt, where it wound up in the hands of junior Isaiah Jay. The 6’6 forward drove the baseline, avoided Nwelue (pronounced like DWELL-way), then appeared to rush a layup.
It was short, bouncing off the rim, where Nwelue cleared the rebound.
Coach Bostwick's post-game comments
“It was a great road win to end the semester,” said Head Coach Donnie Bostwick. “The win was for a well-deserving group of young men. It felt like Christmas came early.”
The Lions, now 11-3, improved their won-lost record in the Red River Athletic Conference to 6-2. Texas Wesleyan fell to 9-4 and 4-3.
The Rams dropped their second straight league game, both in the Sid Richardson Center.
It was the first time they had lost two games in a row at home since the 2003-04 season. That year was also the last time they suffered back-to-back defeats within the conference.
“We played lights-out in the first half,” quipped Bostwick. “Then we had to hold on by gutting out a late run.”
The Jungle Kings converted 17 of their 36 shots (47%) in the opening twenty minutes, including five three-point baskets.
Junior Dominique Rambo (Dallas, Tx / Oklahoma Wesleyan Univ., Trinity Christian School) swished 6-of-9 shots for 13 first-half points, and senior James Ford (Victoria, Tx / Faith Academy) fired a trio of triples to lead the offense.
It was a Ford trifecta, his second in the game, that pushed the Lions on top, 12-10, with 11:57 left in the first half. They would never trail again. The play was set up by a steal by Emmanuel Adoyi (Little Rock, Ark / Parkview HS) and an assist from guard Devante Dunn (Wills Point, Tx / Wills Point HS).
Their lead swelled to 24-12 following a theft by Rambo in which he went the distance for a layup. Ford's third trey boosted the lead to 39-23.
The Lions had an 18-13 first half rebound margin, with a 7-1 advantage in offensive boards. SAGU’s offensive attack was both efficient and effective. They committed only five turnovers while the defense forced 11.
Rambo, like his team, was due. Overcoming a few recent off-games, he excelled during the huge win for SAGU. He led all scorers with 23 points, making 9-of-15 shots.
Along with freshman Adoyi (like ah-BOY), Rambo collected three steals, keying a defense that coerced 18 turnovers and limited the Rams to 39% shooting.
The Lions only losses this year have come to teams who have been ranked, including an overtime, 69-65, defeat at the hands of no. 5 Westmont College (Cal).
“It was another solid group effort,” acknowledged Coach Bostwick. “Defense has been our ticket the first semester. But we still have a lot of room for improvement.”
“Now we have some time to relax and to thank God for sending His Son,” he said in reference to the holiday season. The team doesn’t return to the court until January 5.
That’s also the date of their next home game, when the University of St. Thomas (8-3, 4-2 in RRAC) visits the Sheaffer Center.
The Celts dealt the Rams a 78-70 loss in Cowtown on Saturday.
Ward registered 14 points in 18 minutes. He was 4-of-6 from the field and grabbed four rebounds in 18 minutes. Adoyi added 10 points, making good on four of five field goal attempts.
Wesleyan’s comeback contained a 21-12 second half edge on the boards, six treys and cashing in on 20 second half fouls cited against SAGU. The Rams made 16-of-25 free throws.
The Lions were just 12-of-22 from the stripe in the second stanza. It helped open the door for the Rams’ rally.
Griffin came off the bench to pour in 22 to lead the Wesleyan cause.
The TWU starters were held in check, succeeding on 12-of-36 (33%) tries. Meanwhile, the Lions initial quintet went 18-of-38 (47%).
Added Notes About the Series
SAGU beat the Rams in Fort Worth for the first time on record. The other two wins came in the Sheaffer Center.
The most recent came during the RRAC tournament on March 2, 2006 under Head Coach Jerry Boone. On that day the Lions stunned Wesleyan, 86-85, behind a 36-point eruption by Darius Howard.
SAGU earned their first and only entry in the NAIA national tournament that weekend.
The Lions’ win was ironic in that it propelled the Rams, who qualified for the NAIA tourney, to go 5-0 and claim the national championship.
Three years earlier the Lions whipped the Rams during the regular season for the only time (until tonight).
On February 7, 2003, SAGU rallied from a 42-33 halftime deficit to conquer the 'Horns, 77-68. Scott Vaughan was the Head Coach at the time.