Southwestern Assemblies of God University latched on to a hasty 9-2 lead against Texas Wesleyan University on Thursday night at the Sid Richardson Center and they never relinquished it.
SAGU built a 15-point first half lead and kept the Rams at bay en route to an 86-80 victory to remain the only unbeaten team in the Sooner Athletic Conference.
The No. 2-ranked Lions (11-1, 4-0 in the SAC) enjoyed the fruit of their trademark defense, hustle and crashing of the offensive boards. It led to a 41-26 advantage in shot attempts and a 45-33 upper hand at the half.
They led by double-figures for most of the second half.
Desperately trying to make a run, only twice could the Rams net back-to-back baskets in the second half. Both times they drew to within eight at 61-53 and 76-68.
The Lions, who didnít make their first turnover until the second half, played one of their cleanest games of the year. While they couldnít put away the Rams, they had an answer for every knock at the door.
Jonathan Walter, Caleb Gentry and Emmanuel Adoyi countered with confident play in the clutch.
Walter fed Remington Mitchell inside for a bucket, then stroked a turn-around jumper after a Gentry pass to give the Lions a 65-53 lead with 11:24 to go.
Striding in for a transition basket, Walter countered consecutive TWU field goals. Adoyi then banked in an offensive putback to make it 71-58 with eight minutes to go.
At the end of the shot clock, Adoyi spotted Walter at the elbow, where his wrister made it 73-61.
On their next possession, Adoyi dished a dime to Dominique Rambo in the corner. He chimed a loud three-pointer to make it 76-63 with 4:18 remaining.
A timely offensive rebound by Walter set up Gentry for two foul shots and a 10-point advantage entering the final minute.
Gentry stroked 8-of-10 free throws in the final minutes to stave off the Rams.
The Lions missed five from the line in the final 60 seconds that allowed Wesleyan to whittle their deficit to 84-80 on a three-point play with four seconds to play. Gentry iced the contest with a pair at the line.
Wesleyan (7-6, 1-3 in the SAC) sported a 10 three-ponters per game average entering the game. Well defended on the perimeter, they swished just two in 18 tries. The first came in the gameís 28th minute, the second in the last minute.
Both were from the hands of Deonte Jones, giving him 48 on the season. He ranks third in the nation beyond the arc.
The Rams, who still lead the all-time series with SAGU, 23-6, have lost the last four and five of six. Five players scored in double figures, topped by Rilwan Bakareís 13 points. Jorge Redmon added 12.
Gentry totaled 20 points and grabbed six rebounds.
Making 7-of-10 from the field, Walter accounted for 17 points. He had nine boards and five assists.
Rambo was relatively quiet with 14 points. The playmaker registered three assists and was one of three players with three steals.
Caleb Feemster was credited with 10 points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals. Daniel Mills came off the bench for 10 points in eight minutes.
The much improved Adoyi tossed in eight points and snared a game-high 10 rebounds (five offensive), blocked a shot and pilfered three steals.
The Lions will be back on the court at 8 p.m. Monday at home against Oklahoma City University (7-4, 3-1 in the SAC).