Saturday Hoops: Dogs vs. 'Cats
Preview of SAGU at Jarvis
Lady Lions at 2pm, Lions at 4pm
WAXAHACHIE, Texas -- The race for the Red River Athletic Conference championship takes a turn to the east where Southwestern Assemblies of God University begins a three-game trip against club capable of derailing the strongest of contenders.
The Lions, ranked no. 17 in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), face Jarvis Christian College (6-10, 4-6 in RRAC) on Saturday at 4:00pm in Hawkins, Texas.
The Bulldogs are fresh from stunning then no. 10 ranked Texas College, 55-51 last Saturday in Tyler. The Steers were leading the conference at the time.
SAGU, 14-3 overall and 8-2 in league games, will travel to East Texas again for games on Monday and Thursday versus Texas College (13-4, 7-3 in RRAC) and Wiley College (11-6, 6-4 RRAC). Both have been ranked this season.
The three teams are typically very athletic, high in defensive intensity and enjoy an incredible rivalry. Packed crowds, including each team’s traveling fan base, make for an amped-up, spirited atmosphere.
The Lions will expect no less in their three journeys along I-20.
A year ago the Lions escaped Hawkins with a 90-85 victory. They have won the past four encounters with margins of 6, 5, 20 and 8. Jarvis won at home two years ago, 96-90.
The trio of road challenges will complete a five-game series of contests away from the friendly confines of the Sheaffer Center. SAGU begins a lengthy set of home games next Saturday, January 26, when Bacone College visits.
In the first meeting (Dec. 1) the Lions overcame a 56-53 deficit and held on for an 80-74 triumph. Jon Walter (Garland, Tx / Garland HS), who led with 21 points, drained a key three-pointer to cap a 9-0 run for a 67-58 lead.
The difference in the game was a huge, 24-6 surplus in offensive rebounds for the Lions, who also had four scorers reach double figures. Mike Nwelue (Lewisville, Tx / Lewisville HS) had 14 points and 10 boards.
Both the Bulldogs and Lions average 75 points per game, though SAGU holds the edge in restricting opposing teams’ offenses; allowing 68 to Jarvis’ 83.
The Blue Barkers are led by Marcus O’Key, a 6-foot-5 senior from Lake Charles, La. The power forward is scoring 15.1 ppg. He converted 10-of-13 shots and netted a season-best 27 points against SAGU last month. He is fourth in the RRAC in rebounds, latching onto 7.9 per outing.
Roman Walker, 6’4 guard, supports O’Key with 13.1 ppg, with E.J. Freeman adding 12.1. Freeman’s scoring against winning teams of late has not gone unnoticed.
Dominique Rambo (Dallas, Tx / Oklahoma Wesleyan Univ., Trinity Christian School), a junior point guard, continues to guide the offense. He’s producing 16.7 ppg, 3.9 assists and 2.9 steals.
Rambo and senior guard James Ford (Victoria, Tx / Faith Academy) have tossed in 30 and 27 three-point baskets this season.
Nwelue (pronounced like DWELL-way) is sixth in the RRAC with 7.6 boards per game.
Perhaps the battle of the game will pit Nwelue and Jarvis’ O’Key in the paint. They are both in the league’s top five in grabbing offensive boards.
SAGU (5-12, 2-8 in RRAC) will tangle with Jarvis (0-13, 0-10 RRAC) at 2:00pm. The Lady Bulldogs were forced to forfeit their 72-55 win in December due to a player eligibility issue, which also changed the outcome of two other triumphs.
The Lady Lions are outscoring their counterparts 59-55, though Jarvis’ defensive yield is marginally better at 65.9 to 66.5.
Should the game come down to free throws, it could be tight. Jarvis has the second best accuracy in the RRAC at .691 while SAGU is third at .675.
Dee Love (13.4 ppg) poured in a career high 42 points against SAGU in December. She has averaged fewer than 12 in the seven games since.
Center Ivory Russell is second on the Bulldogs in scoring at 12.2 and ranks third in the RRAC in rebounds at 9.5.
Southwestern’s freshman point guard Taylor Hill (Waxahachie, Tx / Waxahachie HS) racks up 12.2 ppg.
Okievia Bratchett (Center, Tx / Tenaha HS) and Sierra Hankins (Welch, Ok / Welch HS) both net 8.2 ppg.
Kassy Cox (Lufkin, Tx / Lufkin HS) has the best rebounds per game average, 9.8, while Hankins yanks down 7.1 rpg.
Jarvis has won the past three games in the series. SAGU's most recent victory came in January of 2011, 60-59, in Hawkins. The Lady Bulldogs own a 5-3 edge in the series over the past four seasons.