Wesleyan Rolls Past SAGU Men, 86-68
Horne, Ward score 26 and 20 for Lions
WAXAHACHIE, Texas -- The Waco Duo of Ronald Horne and Duce Ward scored 26 and 20 points respectively for Southwestern Assemblies of God University on Monday night, but it wasn't nearly enough during an 86-68 setback to front-running Texas Wesleyan University.
Horne (Waco, Tx / Univ of North Texas, Waco HS), the #3 scorer in the nation, was held in check by a Rams defense that was very impressive during a game that was broadcast live across the country on the Victory Sports and SAGU Sports Networks. Wesleyan allows opposing shooters just .345 shooting accuracy, which rates #1 among the 115 Division I schools.
Still, Horne couldn't be contained the entire game. After getting just six points in the first half, he sank of eight of ten second half shots in a bid to rally the Lions against the #5 ranked Rams. The Lions (7-12, 5-9 RRAC), who trailed 41-20 during the first half, were able to draw to within 51-43 early in the second frame.
Wesleyan (20-2, 13-1 RRAC) staved off the 'Cats by going on a 10-2 run over the next 2:13, sparked by a Bryce Hill three-pointer. Later, a Jeremy Smith basket gave them their largest lead at 84-61.
Chess Match: Rams Go Outside in Counter Move
Southwestern entered the game having won four of their previous six contests, started a strong frontline to contend with the Rams imposing big men. Wesleyan, however, countered by beating SAGU on the perimeter.
Four guards came out firing. Brian Wanamaker drained a three-pointer on the Rams' first possession, followed by treys from both Hill and Jonathan Blake for a 9-7 lead they never relinquished. Sharing the RRAC's co-Player of the Week honors with Horne, Blake added a traditional three-point play, a two-point score and another triple to open up a 19-10 advantage.
When Smith knocked down a 16-footer, the Rams led 23-12, with their backcourt accounting for 19 points.
Guard Shootout: Lions topped by Rams
Few teams can contend with the Lions explosive pair of Horne and Jared Gibson (Dallas, Tx / West Plano HS), especially when it comes to long-range artillery. But on this night the Rams more than held their own.
Their foursome combined to score 63 points on 20-of-38 shooting, hitting 6-of-14 trifectas and 17-of-23 free throws. What may have stood out the most, though, was the way they protected the ball. In 110 minutes the group had seven assists, six from Smith, but committed only three turnovers.
"Our guys played very well," said Rams head coach, Terry Waldrop. "We weren't going to lose this game. Playing SAGU is always a challenge. They have some outstanding shooters and are always a threat. We focused on them. Horne did well, but it took him 22 shots to get 26 points. I'll take those numbers when it leads to a win." And he is very familiar with winning, having won 20 or more in six of the past seven years at TWU.
Player of the Game: Nathaniel Duce Ward
The player selected as the Chicken Express Player of the Game by the SAGU Sports Live crew was Ward (Waco, Tx / Connally HS). Just days after the passing of his father, Nathaniel Ward, Senior (47), the 6'5 sophomore was steady throughout. He finished with twenty points, going 7-of-13 from the field. The NAIA leader in rebounds was limited to four in a game that was very physical inside. The Lions' Gabriel Clark (Modesto, Ca / Modesto HS) was imposing, grabbing a team-high seven boards and blocking four shots.
Gibson finished with 11 points by connecting on two treys. He led the squad with three assists.
The match-up at guard was clearly won by Wesleyan, 63-37 in points. SAGU battled well against the Rams on the interior, though they outboarded the Lions by just a 40-34 count. Nnamdi Agbaroji (Houston, Tx / Westbury HS) came off the bench to supply the team with four caroms and four points.
Four Week Stretch Drive
After getting off to a 3-9 start the Lions have rebounded to make a strong push in search of qualifying for the RRAC tournament. Even with the loss SAGU remains in eighth place. They lead Bacone College (9-12, 4-10 RRAC) in the dual for a key to the post-season. Southwestern has just nine games left, eight of them against conference foes. The stretch drive has begins this weekend.
The Lions will be back in action on Saturday, February 5, when Wiley College (11-10, 7-6 in RRAC) visits the Sheaffer Center for a 4:00pm matinee. The Wildcats have won two in a row, including Monday's 82-60 triumph over Bacone.
Before they arrive in town, Wiley will play at LSU-Shreveport (19-1, 12-1) on Thursday. Should they fall to the #3 ranked Pilots, Saturday's game could draw SAGU to within a game of sixth place. Currently tied with Wiley is Jarvis Christian (10-12, 7-6). The Bulldogs will begin a rough 5-game road stretch this weekend, which ends with a trip to Waxahachie on Valentine's Day.