Defense, offensive boards, free throws critical in the clutch
SAGU plays at home on Saturday at 5pm; ring ceremony at 4:30pm
OKLAHOMA CITY, Oklahoma -- They may appear as poised as a swan traversing across a lake, but underneath the surface they are paddling like crazy.
No. 4 Southwestern Assemblies of God University (18-2 / 10-1 in SAC) behind a denying defense that was in 'beast mode' in the clutch edged No. 29 Oklahoma City University (10-8 / 6-5 SAC), 65-62, at the Abe Lemons Arena on Thursday night.
After R.J. McGhee scored with 4:09 remaining to knot the score (61-61) for the eleventh time, the Lions forced two straight turnovers. The Stars were allowed to get off only four shots the rest of the way, all misses.
SAGU failed on all five of their attempts, but an offensive rebound by Caleb Gentry (Hondo, Tx / Hondo HS, Ok Wesleyan Univ ) led to a pair of go-ahead Dominique Rambo (Dallas, Tx / Trinity Chr CH, Ok Wesleyan Univ ) free throws with 1:44 to go.
The Stars’ Jamaal Crayton split two foul shots at 1:29, and, following an errant Gentry trey, Terence Bonhomme was off the mark on a triple.
Jonathan Walter (Garland, Tx / Garland HS ) snared the rebound for Team Purp, was immediately fouled, then converted two pressure-packed strokes from the charity stripe.
SAGU led 65-62 as forty-four seconds and OCU were hanging on.
McGhee and Crayton failed at equalizing trifectas. The Stars grabbed Crayton’s miss with five seconds to go but another trey, which was short anyway, was waved off by officials because it wasn’t released in time.
Close Games; turning confidence into expectation
SAGU improved to 8-2 this season in games decided by less than 10-points. They defeated the Stars similarly, 68-63, on January 13.
Three things common in each game was a long supply of elbowgrease, selfless play and a strong trust in each other.
A year ago the Jungle Kings were 18-2 in similar outcomes (games decided by nine points or fewer).
Third year Head Coach Donnie Bostwick, now 198-38 in his career, addressed the team’s cohesive play when games are on the line.
“Road games are won by five guys coming together to get defensive stops and rebounds late,” he stated.
“We were unable to get that accomplished at Wayland Baptist (tied at 82, WBU won 89-82), but tonight we finished strong.”
“It would be selfish on my part to point out any individual other than God for their part in the victory," he continued. "We asked for His Spirit to strengthen us so we could finish strong and we praise Him for coming through.”
In his first year in Waxahachie the Lions had the largest turnaround in all of college basketball.
They improved from 10-22 to 27-11.
Even in that season the team was 13-7 in single-digit endings. That is 39-11 (.780) in three years.
It compares very favorably to the three previous campaigns; 25-31 (.446).
On the Thursday the lead changed hands 20 times and the score was tied on 11 occasions. During the 91-83 decision at then No. 11 ranked St. Gregory's University on Jan. 18, there were 24 lead changes.
Oklahoma City's largest lead was seven points while the Lions was five; 8-3 early.
Late run in first half may have saved the day
As effective as the Lions were as the game wound down, perhaps equally impressive was the way they closed the first half.
McGhee, a 6’6 senior forward, powered his team with 14 points. Before he sank two free throws for a 36-29 lead with 1:34 to go, Crayton and Kalib Smith drained back-to-back triples to overcome a 29-28 deficit.
Momentum was in the locker room being fitted for a royal blue jersey when the Lions roared back. A Rambo foul shot at 1:12 got things started.
Bostwick inserted junior guard Tyler Guidry (Houston, Tx / Westbury Christian ). A three-ball by Bonhomme went begging (0:51) with Rambo latching onto the carom. He zipped the outlet pass to Guidry in transition. He spotted Caleb Feemster (Addison, Tx / Trinity Chr-Addison, Ranger College ) for a fastbreak deuce.
The Stars were setting up the closing shot by McGhee when Rambo swiped the ball, jetted upcourt and hit Guidry for a huge layup with two ticks on the clock. The Lions trailed 36-34 at recess.
SAGU had three players reach double-digits; Rambo 19, Gentry 16 and Walter with 10.
Rambo struggled with his shot (5-of-19), but his stat line didn’t suffer. He claimed six rebounds, was 8-of-10 on the foul line, racked up four assists and had a pair of steals.
The Lions version of Charlie Hustle, Gentry, canned four triples, had five boards, two assists and three steals.
Walter added six rebounds and had two of the Lions five blocked shots. Six-foot-eight freshman Remington Mitchell (Mansfield, Tx / Mansfield HS) also swatted two.
Silent and as effective as a bear trap on the interior was sophomore Emmanuel Adoyi (Little Rock, Ark / LR Parkview HS ). A defensive shutdown artist, he made four of five shots for eight points. His 10 rebounds led both teams as did his five offensive grabs.
In the first meeting of the teams, both had 43 boards. Thursday witnessed the Lions own a 44-36 share of the misses.
While SAGU’s advantage on the offensive glass was small, 16 to 13, they parlayed them into a 20-12 margin in second chance points.
“One of our goals was holding them below 40 percent from the floor,” stated Bostwick. “We have struggled in that area of late.”
The Stars connected on 43% in the first, but were held to 32% after the half for a 37% game total. SAGU was true on 39% of their attempts.
“I was very pleased with our composure and the way we stuck to our game plan,” he added. “The difference between winning and losing is so small that the small things become huge.”
The Stars, who turned the ball over 21 times in January, protected the ball much better on Thursday. Their total of nine included just four in the second half. Overall, SAGU coughed it up 11 times.
Bostwick mentioned a few of the eleven players who saw action.
“Hondo (Gentry) had a nice night shooting, which gave us a big lift,” he said of the senior guard. “And Emmanuel was a force around the basket.”
“Rambo just found a way to help us win on a tough shooting night. Jon and Feemster made big plays late when we needed them.”
He also mentioned two guards who continue to rise to the occasion, Guidry and junior ‘Dre Creer (Ft Worth, Tx / Trimble Tech HS, Angelina College ).
“Tyler, Andre and our bench gave us solid minutes,” he continued, “but as usual it was offensive rebounding and timely defense that stick out as keys to the victory.”
McGhee ended with a game-high 20 points. Crayton, a 6’3 senior guard, racked up 16 points and a team-best nine boards. His six assists revealed a notable performance.
The Stars were playing without Terry Johnson and Terrence Walker, both with injuries.
First year Head Coach Dionne Phelps’ club is 4-5 in close games. Their five losses in the Sooner Athletic Conference have come by seven points or less.
Purple Pride coming home on Saturday afternoon
SAGU went 4-1 on their two week road trip. They are 9-2 when away from the friendly confines of the Sheaffer Center.
They return home on Saturday where they will meet Southwestern Christian University (6-12 / 2-9 SAC) at 5:00pm (CST).
At 4:30pm SAGU will honor last year’s national runner-up team with a special ring ceremony. Three banners and team photo will all be raised during the brief program.
The ceremony and the game will be aired live in HD by SAGU Sports Live.
Contact: Mark “Link” Warde, SAGU Sports Information Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 469-658-2847.
Current Standings: http://www.soonerathletic.org/
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