Having fallen to Texas College earlier in the week, largely in part to making only 8 of 22 free throw attempts, the Southwestern Assemblies of God University men’s basketball team has set out to better capitalize on their chances.
On Monday night they built a lead against Langston University, then held them off by knocking down shots from the foul line to earn an 84-73 triumph.
A determined Langston Lions team did a yeoman’s effort to keep SAGU off the offensive boards, limited their own turnovers and owned a 7-6 edge in three-pointers.
SAGU head coach Donnie Bostwick’s team continued to battle defensively and, on this night, relied on lessons learned against the Steers.
SAGU connected on 47 percent of its shots and were knocking down most of its shots at the free throw line.
The Lions, wearing their new purple road threads, ripped the nets on 28 of 32 free throws, all in the second half, to stave off a resilient Langston squad.
“We executed our game plan and withstood a couple of big runs that they made,” Bostwick said. “I am very pleased with our calmness and our sustained effort. You can tell when we are focused by our free throw percentage.”
The game was as tight as wallpaper until the early stages of the second half. It was tied on six occasions with the lead changing hands 14 times.
The Lions, now 9-2 overall and 4-1 in the Red River Athletic Conference, led at the half, 32-30. A streak of nine unanswered points pushed SAGU on top, 53-40, with 13:47 left in the game.
James Ford hit a pair of baskets to ignite the surge and the lead stood at 55-44 two minutes later.
Langston converted several turnovers into a 15-6 run that had them knocking on the door, 59-56, at the 8:39 mark.
Emmanuel Adoyi, Caleb Gentry and Jonathan Walter opened the door to victory by slamming it shut from the foul line.
Adoyi stepped to the line and sank a pair, followed by Walter, and then Gentry, each with a free throw ditto for a 65-56 lead with 7:36 remaining.
Gentry then launched a three-ball to push the lead back to double-digits, 68-58. But the visiting team had plenty of time to make a comeback.
Bostwick praised the lead set by Dominique Rambo and Mike Nwelue. Their determination keyed the team’s play in the first half.
“’Bo and Mike set the tone early in the game,” Bostwick said. “Then different players took turns coming through down the stretch.”
Rambo and Adoyi produced a pair from the charity stripe to maintain the upper-hand and when Adoyi repeated his feat, SAGU was still in control of the lead and the tempo at 74-63.
Gentry seemingly put the game away when he converted an old-fashioned three-point play, and buckets by Nwelue and Rambo extended the lead to 83-68.
Evidence of the team’s steady play was also reflected in their shooting accuracy. They found the range on 14 of 30 first half shots.
SAGU’s blue-collar work ethic on the boards saw them pull down 38 rebounds, while LU labored to grab 26.
Langston did manage to box-out the Lions, who could get to only eight offensive boards. SAGU entered the game averaging 18 per contest, which ranked No. 2 in the NAIA.
SAGU placed four players in double-figures in scoring, led by Rambo, who had 20. The junior fired in 7 of 14 shots, including three triples. He also sank 3 of 4 at the foul line.
Gentry totaled 15 points, with two treys, while Adoyi and Nwelue were credited with 13 and 11 points respectively. Gentry, Nwelue and Walter all had three assists.
The game marked the return of Nathaniel “Duce” Ward. The 6-feet-5-inch senior forward, who led the NAIA in rebounding two years ago, had missed the team’s first 10 games. He scored nine points, latched onto seven boards and blocked a shot.
“It was very good having Duce back,” Bostwick said. “He rushed a few shots but he also had seven rebounds in limited play.”
SAGU will need a similar performance Thursday when LSU-Shreveport visits. The Pilots are 6-2, 2-1 in the RRAC under new head coach Kyle Blankenship.
Their only losses have come against Texas College (10-1) and Paul Quinn College (6-1).
LSUS finished 27-8 last season with a No. 7 ranking in the NAIA. The teams split their two meetings last season.