SAGU vs OLLU; High stakes hoops
Much is on the line as powers collide
Big crowd expected; RRAC crown the prize
WAXAHACHIE, Texas -- In one of the biggest men’s basketball games in recent history, Southwestern Assemblies of God University plays host to nationally ranked Our Lady of the Lake University tonight in the Sheaffer Center.
The 7:30pm (CST) game is open to the public, with a large crowd is expected on “Loud Purple Night.”
SAGU is ranked no. 7 in this week’s National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Top 25 Coaches Poll. Riding a 15-game winning streak, the Lions are 24-3. The team is in the catbird seat atop the Red River Athletic Conference with a 17-2 mark.
OLLU, from San Antonio, is 18-11, and in fourth place in the league (14-7).
Earlier this season the Lions defeated the Saints, 77-70, on the road.
Entering this week, the two-time defending RRAC champions led the nation in scoring (92 points per game), three-pointers per game (12.2), offensive rebounds (17.2) and steals.
The Lions could win the Red River with a win tonight, coupled with an LSU-Shreveport (20-5, 15-4 in RRAC) loss at Jarvis Christian College (14-14, 10-9 in RRAC).
SAGU’s magic number to clinch their first-ever championship since joining the NAIA is two.
The team’s final home game is Saturday, February 23, when Wiley College (15-12, 9-10 in RRAC) visits for a 4:00pm matinee.
If the Lions stumble and fail to clinch the title, they will travel on Monday to take on LSU-Shreveport in a winner-take-all finale.
At stake is the top seed in next month’s RRAC tournament as well as an automatic qualifier in the NAIA’s 32-team national tourney.
Prior to the men’s game is a 5:30pm clash between the SAGU Lady Lions and OLLU’s no. 21 ranked women’s team.
A young SAGU team, at 9-18, is still in contention for the final spot in the conference tourney. The Lady Saints (26-2) are battling Wiley College (23-3) for the league crown.
Both games tonight will be broadcast in high definition by SAGU Sports Live. Viewers can connect tap into the free access at www.sagu.edu/tv.
Men's Preview: Who to Watch
OLLU has a bonafide long-distance sniper in senior guard Robert Martinez. The six-footer averages 19.1 ppg and has made more three-point baskets (115) than anyone in the NAIA, an average of four makes per contest. More impressive is his 47% accuracy.
The Lions held him to 1-of-8 beyond the arc in their December encounter. Martinez has gone two games without ripping the nets from downtown, both them losses for the Halos.
Twelve times he has made five or more in a game this season, including one stretch of three consecutive outings with seven triples. His high was a 9-of-12 showing against Texas Wesleyan University.
He was 16-of-40 against the Lions during his sophomore and junior seasons.
While Martinez is often the lightning rod for his team, Lo’Ron Smith, 6’3 guard, averages 18.8 points per game. He has 80 trifectas.
Coming off the bench is a third senior guard who can light up the night. Juan “Eddie” Ortiz has notched 80 treys as well as scoring 10 ppg.
OLLU utilizes fullcourt pressure throughout the game, and they crash the offensive boards fearlessly. They are one of just two teams in the nation who grab more offensive rebounds than SAGU (17.2 to 15.7). In their first game, both teams reeled in 21 offensive boards.
Which team controls the tempo will likely determine the winner.
SAGU plays one of the NAIA’s best defenses, forcing opponents to shoot just 37% from the floor. That ranks third in the country. The opposition connects on only 30% of their attempts from three-point range.
Those figures will be put to the test tonight.
When they met in Mabee Gym in their first meeting, the Lions held OLLU to 33% from the field and 20% (6-of-30) from outside the arc.
The Saints were led by Smith and Martinez with 23 and 19 points respectively.
Southwestern won with balance as five players reached double figures; junior guards Caleb Gentry (Hondo, Tx / OK Wesleyan Univ, Hondo HS) and Dominique Rambo (Dallas, Tx / OK Wesleyan Univ, Trinity Christian School) each had 13, while center Mike Nwelue (Lewisville, Tx / Lewisville HS) added 12.
James Ford (Victoria, Tx / Faith Academy) tossed in 11 off the bench and Jon Walter (Garland, Tx / Garland HS) netted 10.
Nwelue (like DWELL-way) had a game-high 14 rebounds. Duce Ward (Waco, Tx / Univ of N. Texas, Connally HS) added nine points and a dozen caroms.