Lions Succumb to Turnovers, Steers, 72-55
Solid rebounding effort doesn't translate into a win
WAXAHACHIE, Texas -- The Southwestern Assemblies of God University men's basketball team, led by Nathaniel Duce Ward and Jared Gibson scoring 15 and 14 points respectively, wasn't enough during a 72-55 home defeat at the hands of Texas College.
SAGU has seen a once-promising season slide in recent weeks. The team lost for the fourth straight time and fifth in their last six games. The Lions are 7-15 overall and 5-12 in league games and are now fighting to earn a berth in the Red River Athletic Conference tournament.
The tourney, hosted by Southwestern, includes only the top eight in the 12-team league. The Lions are currently in ninth place and trail the University of the Southwest (11-13, 6-11 RRAC) by one game.
Texas College, the third place team in the conference, won their fifth consecutive game. The Steers are 14-8 in all games and 13-3 in the RRAC.
Defense is the Steers' M.O.
Known for their defensive prowess, TC entered the game ranked #2 in points allowed, giving up just 70.6 points per game. That is largely due to their aggressiveness on the boards, where they yield only 34 rebounds to opponents. That figure trails only Texas Wesleyan (22-2, 15-1) in the RRAC.
On Saturday it was their defense that told the tale.
Coach Speak: Playing Lock-Down Defense
"We came into the game with our plan wrapped around playing great defense," said Steers Head Coach, Marquet Norfleet. "We needed to play lock-down defense tonight. SAGU has talent. They have some great shooters. And Ronald Horne is a very special player. Everything they do goes through him. We had to make his job hard if we were going to win."
Mission accomplished. Horne (Waco, Tx / Univ of North Texas, Waco HS), the league's top scorer, was held to 10 points. It tied his lowest output of the season, which, ironically, was against Texas College in January. They employed a host of defenders who denied his access to the paint and allowed just ten shots. To his credit, Horne did his best to compensate by racking up a game-high six assists. No one else has been able to hold him in check as well.
"Our guys did a great job of containing him," Norfleet added. "We worked to limit some of his moves and contested everything he did. The guys on the perimeter played well, to be sure, but our interior defenders helped a lot."
Forcing 32 turnovers
Overall, the story of the game was Texas College coaxing a season-high 32 turnovers out of the Lions, twenty during the first half. It translated into the Steers having a 65-48 margin in shots attempted. Seventeen more shots than the opposition is huge.
SAGU, Clark, owned the boards
Head Coach Jerry Boone's squad didn't lack passion or effort. They fought bravely and continued to attack the basket on a night when doing so was an arduous task. Held to 55 points, tying their season low – also against Texas College, the Lions turned in a yeoman's performance on the boards.
After giving up 47 rebounds in the 82-55 loss on January 8, the Lions finished with a 42-35 upper hand on Saturday night. Gabriel Clark (Modesto, Ca / Modesto HS) ripped down a game-high 13 caroms in only 21 minutes of court time.
Player of the Game: Jacobie Bias
The player of the game for the Steers was 6'4 small forward, Jacobie Bias. He led all scorers with 20 points, including an assortment of jumpers, layups and five memorable, one-handed dunks.
"Coby is one of the top players in our league," Norfleet said following an emotional game. With his trademark bow-tie untied and relaxed on a colorful, red and white checkered shirt, he spoke just as freely about the senior. "When he gets it going, he is tough to handle. Coby is a great finisher."
True. His jams were human exclamation marks during a night in which he made nine of 14 shots and had a pair of steals. His 31 minutes of playing time led the Horns, whose depth was obvious. Ten players picked up more than ten minutes apiece.
First Half Rewind
The Steers grabbed the lead early, riding the hot hand of the small forward, Bias. The 6'4 senior hit three quick, mid-range jumpers for an 11-4 advantage. They never looked back. DeAndre Duncan made a pair of baskets, and then drained a three-pointer as Texas College opened up a commanding, 30-9 advantage, 5:43 before halftime. They were never seriously threatened after that.
To their credit, the Lions refused to concede.
In a span of 2:14 late in the half, Gibson (Dallas, Tx / West Plano HS), Peter Dutton (Houston, Tx / Booker T. Washington HS) and Duce Ward (Waco, Tx / Connally HS) launched triples during a 13-4 run that sliced a 21-point deficit to 34-22 with 2:57 remaining in the half.
The Steers regrouped and took a 39-24 lead into the break by forcing a pair of turnovers and Lion shooters into missing their next four shots over the final three minutes.
Second Half Recap
Texas College resumed their strong play in the second half, extending their lead to 62-35 on a trey by LaDarren Williams and a transition basket from Jeremy McCarty with 11:04 to play.
Once again the Purple Pride made a run.
Trailing by 27, SAGU outscored the Tyler's bovine bucketeers by a 19-3 count, finishing with twelve straight, unanswered points to draw to within 65-54 (2:10 to play). That surge saw Horne finally get untracked, scoring eight of his ten points. He made an old-fashioned three point play on a drive inside as well as a transition trey on the left wing on a pass from Gibson. Gibson had six points during the run while Clark tossed in four.
The Lions failed to get closer than 11 over the final two minutes, missing three shots and making three turnovers. Texas College salted away the win by netting 7-of-10 free throws to nail down a win that was very important to Norfleet.
"We haven't won here the past two years," he pointed out. "This can be a difficult place to play, especially when their shooters get in a zone. We haven't finished well here. So it was critical for us to come in here and win."
In the previous four seasons the Lions have gone 3-1 against the Steers in the Sheaffer Center. Overall, however, Texas College owns a 9-3 lead in the series since 2006.
SAGU Cat Stats
Ward topped the 'Cats with 15 points. He pulled down seven rebounds and blocked a shot. Gibson added 14 points, including a pair of triples. Horne totaled 10 points on 2-of-10 shooting, had six assists and two steals. Dutton and Clark contributed five points, with the latter grabbing 13 boards and blocking three shots.
Bias' 20 points were reinforced by Williams. The 6'9 junior fired a pair of 3-balls and finished with 15 points. He also had 10 rebounds and blocked one shot. Lemuel Jones scored nine and LaMario Kersee swished eight while making four steals on defense.
Southwestern made 35% of their overall shots, and were just 5-of-16 beyond the arc. Texas College hit 40% from the field, 3-of-11 from downtown and 17-of-27 from the charity stripe. The Steers committed 15 turnovers, only four during the decisive first half.
Lions host Jarvis on Monday
SAGU returns to the court on Monday when Jarvis Christian College (10-14, 7-8 RRAC) visits the FLC. The game begins at 7:30pm and will be available on the internet as it will be broadcast in HD by SAGU SPORTS Live.
The Bulldogs won the first encounter, 96-90, on January 10 in Hawkins, Texas. Jarvis lost a tough, 61-55 decision at Paul Quinn College (16-9, 11-6) on Saturday, and have dropped four of their last six outings.
The game is vital if the Lions' hope to qualify for a berth in the Red River tournament. With their final four conference games away from the Sheaffer Center, Southwestern needs a win in their final league home contest. The Bulldogs are 2-6 on the road in the RRAC, winning only at Wiley College (78-76) and Huston-Tillotson (87-86).
SAGU is 4-6 at home against conference foes, beating University of the Southwest (99-89), Tillotson (81-70), Langston (76-66) and Bacone College (100-92).
Home Finale on Thursday
The Lions will conclude their regular season home schedule on Thursday, February 17, in a non-conference clash with the University of St. Thomas. The Celts are 11-10 following their 67-47 win against the University of Dallas (2-19) on Saturday.
UST defeated SAGU, 71-56, on November 2. They have a 4-3 record against teams from the RRAC, including wins over Texas Wesleyan and Our Lady of the Lake.\