Lady Lions crowned by Langston
No. 7 ranked guests remain unbeaten
SAGU led by frontcourt of Bruner, Roberts, Cox
WAXAHACHIE, Texas -- Senior forward Gabby Bruner (Peaster, Tx / Peaster HS) scored 10 points and ripped down six rebounds, but it was not enough to prevent Southwestern Assemblies of God University from falling to #7 ranked Langston University, 65-34, Saturday evening.
In spite of a deceiving score, Langston had to sweat to improve to their record to 13-0 overall and 7-0 in the Red River Athletic Conference. SAGU, used to finishing in the top two to four teams in the RRAC, dropped their ninth in a row and are 3-9 overall, 0-6 in league play.
The two rivals, who have shared some epic battles in recent seasons, also share the same Lady Lions mascot.
“We don’t like going up against SAGU,” said Langston head coach Jerome Willis as he left the locker room. “The always cover our plays well, and that zone again forced us to take shots we don’t like.”
“We could never find a rhythm against them tonight,” he continued. “That’s why we had to (fullcourt) press them just to get any points.”
Southwestern’s young backcourt, working through growing pains, combined to make 24 of the team’s 33 turnovers. The mistakes led to a number of easy Langston baskets and spelled the difference.
Langston found scoring in their halfcourt offense a major struggle. It was just their fourth time to be held under 73 points, all of them on the road.
LU and SAGU are the RRAC’s best two teams on defense, as is their custom. LU surrenders just 55.3 points per game and allows opponents to make only 31.3% of their shots. That ranks #2 in the nation.
SAGU is second to them in both categories at 59.7 and 34.9%. The Purple Pride’s field goal percentage defense ranks #13 of the NAIA’s 111 Division I teams.
Team Lioness applied the clamps on Saturday, limiting LU to 42% (24 of 57) shooting overall, including just seven of 19 three-pointers. SAGU squeezed 21 turnovers from the front-running guests.
Game Re-Cap: Defenses Rule
Southwestern led once, 8-7, on a pair of Shaquita Roberts (San Antonio, Tx / Byron Steele HS) free throws, with 12:03 left in the first half. While the visiting, blue-clad ‘Cats could never run away like they did two days earlier when they eased past Paul Quinn College, 104-50, they put enough distance between them and SAGU late in the half.
Trailing14-10 at the 9:06 mark, Southwestern scored only two baskets before intermission, both by Bruner. Roberts assisted the first, Andrea Lugo (San Antonio, Tx / Somerset HS) the second.
Langston finished the half by outscoring the hosts, 18-4. SAGU was 2-of-11 during that portion of the game, when they also missed three free throws and gave the ball away seven times to trail at the break, 32-14.
Bruner scored the team’s first four points in the second stanza, giving the senior forward eight straight. When Tina Brown (New Braunfels, Tx / Lifegate Christian) swished a pair of free throws with 10:37 to play, Langston held a 52-20 margin.
SAGU never relented on defense, and put in nine of the game’s next 14 points over the ensuing five minutes (57-29). The Lady Lions scored on an offensive putback by Kassy Cox (Lufkin, Tx / Lufkin HS), a Jirah Rodriguez (Georgetown, Tx / Georgetown HS) three-pointer, a spinning layup by Nia Winston (Garland, Tx / Panola JuCo, Lakeview Centennial) and a driving deuce from Brown.
In the game’s final 7:37, SAGU was held to a Roberts three-point play and a rebound bucket by Cox with a second to play.
It was the team’s lowest output since they lost at Oklahoma Christian University, 88-32, in November of 2006.
Credit Langston’s physical defense for shackling SAGU to 26% (13 of 50) shooting.
“Our ladies played solid defense,” pointed out Coach Willis. “That’s what we hang our hats on; tough D. We were just mediocre on offense tonight.”
“Our bigs; (Vicoria) Felix and (Tayla) Vaughn really made an impact inside,” he continued. “Plus, Shontice (Simmons) had her outside shots going on!”
Felix scored 13 and racked up nine boards, the same total of rebounds Vaughn registered. Simmons led all scorers with 19, hitting 7-of-12 from the field, including 4-of-7 triples.
Guards Shantoya Fisher and Ayanna Jackson added 12 and 10 points, mostly chasing in on turnovers. Jaimee Harry, another guard, led with six assists and four steals.
SAGU interior players draw Langston's praise
Southwestern’s frontcourt held their own on the glass, as Langston claimed just a 35-31 edge in rebounds.
Bruner, SAGU’s blue-collar forward, took an intentional, brutal elbow to her head, was sturdy and fearless. She shook off the flagrant foul by tossing in two free throws. Along with Roberts, who scored five points and reeled in six boards, the Lady Lions have a robust duo manning the lane.
“Having Shaq back inside is huge for SAGU,” Coach Willis said. “And Bruner is probably the most underestimated player in the league. She is so tough and helped them a lot tonight.”
Joining them is the 6-foot-1 freshman Cox. She had five rebounds in five minutes at Texas Wesleyan on Thursday and followed it up with a team-best eight in fifteen minutes against LU. Her three offensive caroms led to a pair of stickbacks. Cox and Roberts had two of the team’s three assists.
Brown, who paired with Cox on the SAGU volleyball team, came off the bench to power in eight points on 3-of-5 shooting.
“Southwestern is a very well coached team,” Willis concluded. “They will get it going. They lost a few they should’ve won and have played three tough teams in a row. I expect them to recover and make the (RRAC) tournament by the end of the season.”
Next Game: Monday at Texas College
The Lady Lions will need to regroup quickly as they travel to Tyler, Texas on Monday, January 9, for a 5:30pm clash against Texas College (1-11, 1-6 in RRAC). They defeated University of the Southwest on December 10, 102-81, and are averaging 61 ppg and surrendering 76.
SAGU swept the season series a year ago and have won the last eight meetings with the Lady Steers.
The Lady Lions return home on Thursday, Jan. 12, when Wiley College (8-3, 4-3 RRAC) is on tap.
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