Lions grind out 72-62 triumph
Ninth consecutive win for SAGU, now 18-3
Langston visits the Sheaffer Center on Monday night
WAXAHACHIE, Texas -- Playing their fourth game in eight days, the Southwestern Assemblies of God University men’s basketball team ground out a 72-62 triumph over a new-look Bacone College (3-16, 1-12 in RRAC) on Saturday.
The no. 16 ranked Lions won their ninth game in a row and upped their overall record to 18-3.
With several teams nipping at their heels, SAGU maintained a one-game lead in the loss column in the Red River Athletic Conference with an 11-2 mark. To view the standings, go to www.redriverconference.com
Weary from their recent 9-of-11 games on the road, SAGU returned home a tad flat, but were FAR from flatlining.
Playing with the style of the Detroit Red Wings’ famous “Grind Line,” a gritty SAGU team battled through against a spunky, young Warriors squad.
This year’s Lions play a brand of defense that is grinding and wearing on opposing scorers by providing a presence of tenacity and will. Add to it a deeper bench than last season, and it is no wonder SAGU is among the nation’s leaders in steals, field goal defense and rebounding.
“We may not be as exciting (in scoring and in making three-pointers) as we were last year,” said Head Coach Donnie Bostwick, “but we can grind,” referring to the team’s work ethic.
This year’s “Grind Lions” see missed shots as a feeding frenzy, aggressively going after caroms, especially on offense. A loose ball is akin to an invitation to dinner! In short, they are hungry and relentless.
SAGU is tied with two other teams nationally, all allowing the opposition to make just 37% of their shots. That leads the NAIA.
The blue-collar style is very common in the RRAC. Seven of the top nine teams in regards to committing the most fouls per game, are from this conference. SAGU is at #9 (21 fouls per game).
There are 103 teams in the NAIA’s Division I. Ten of the Top 20 in fouls are from the RRAC.
Either the M.O. is physical or league officials are fans of Disney’s classic tune, “Whistle While We Work,” from the “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.”
On a day when teams nationwide set out to raise funds and awareness about the fight against cancer, Bacone and SAGU battled on defense, contesting every shot. Rather than physicality, these squads turn to speed, agility and a voracious hunger for leather, as in getting hands on the basketball.
The Lions jumped to an early 11-3 lead on the strength of a three-pointer by junior guard Dominique Rambo (Dallas, Tx / Oklahoma Wesleyan University, Trinity Christian School), and a bucket from sophomore forward Mike Nwelue (Lewisville, Tx / Lewisville HS).
While they could never put away the Warriors, they also would never relinquish the lead.
The Lions extended their lead to 20-7 on a pair of Rambo free throws. It capped a string of nine unanswered points and came during a 6:21 stretch of play when Bacone (bah-KONE) couldn’t score.
Credit the Tribe to weathering that cold spell, for they heated up and sliced their deficit to 22-21.
One of the Lions best performers in the clutch, sophomore Jon Walter (Garland, Tx / Garland HS), stemmed the Crimson Tide. His basket sparked a mini-run that included a jumper from Caleb Gentry (Hondo, Tx / Oklahoma Wesleyan Univ., Hondo HS) and a Rambo triple that lifted the Purple Pride to a 32-26 margin at intermission.
The Warriors connected on only 30% of their shots in the opening half but capitalized on eight offensive rebounds to stay in the game.
Nwelue (pronounced like DWELL-way), quiet in recent games, came to life in the second half.
His scores, whether they come on the offensive glass, on the low blocks, his fade-away jumper or via authoritative dunks, they usually punctuate play with an exclamation mark!
Back-to-back baskets pushed the Lions advantage to 59-43 with 9:54 remaining.
A Roland Barbaza trey pulled the Warriors to within 65-60 at the 3:51 mark before the Lions re-applied their defensive vice-grips.
SAGU squeezed the Warriors into four turnovers and 1-for-7 shooting the rest of the way.
Senior forward Nathaniel “Duce” Ward (Waco, Tx / Univ. of N.Texas, Connally HS), who led the NAIA in rebounding during his sophomore campaign, scored on an offensive putback. He snared a missed Rambo shot from the wing, pivoted and wristed a 12-footer in the paint.
Gentry assisted on a sweet deuce from Walter before the game’s signature play sealed the deal. Ward passed to a slashing Nwelue for a two-fisted jam with twenty-five ticks left on the clock.
The Lions scored 40 in the second stanza by making 42% of their shots.
For the second game this week the team made less than 10 turnovers.
Rambo bagged 19 points, three trifectas and was credited with four steals. Nwelue finished with 15 points and a dozen rebounds – seven on the offensive end.
Gentry added 12 points while Ward netted eight points, seven boards and swiped the ball four times. James Ford (Victoria, Tx / Faith Academy), a senior guard, tossed in eight points while Walter had six.
SAGU won the battle of the boards, 43-41.
It was the team’s second win over Bacone this season. SAGU won in Muskogee, Oklahoma in December by an 86-60 count.
It was also the team’s fourth triumph in a row over the Warriors and fifth in six games.
Monday night's game vs Langston to be aired in HD
The Lions return to the court on Monday when Langston University (8-13, 5-9 in RRAC) visits the Sheaffer Center. The opening tip is set for 7:30pm (CST).
A youthful Langston club brings intensity to the court. They have recently defeated both Texas Wesleyan University and Wiley College.
SAGU won their first encounter, 84-73, in Oklahoma.
The game will be broadcast in HD by SAGU Sports Live. Fans can access the game on-line at: www.sagu.edu and by clicking the Watch SAGU TV button on the home page.
The pre-game show will follow the women’s game between the schools. It begins at 5:30pm.
Rob Price and Tim Roberts will supply the play-by-play and color, while Bianca Alarcon brings courtside interviews.
SAGU then hosts Texas Wesleyan (13-8, 7-7 RRAC) on Saturday.