No. 2-ranked Southwestern Assemblies of God University reeled off 12 unanswered points to start the second half and broke open a close game en route to an 80-71 triumph against the University of Science & Arts of Oklahoma.

The first half was tightly contested and physical.

Exiting the locker room for the second half while holding a slim, 37-35 benefit, the Lions amped up their defense.

Two quick steals, a flashy transition basket and a pair of three-bombs pushed the lead to 49-35. The Lions never trailed after that.

“I’m very pleased with the unselfish play, the energy (we received) from the bench and the first five minutes of the second half,” SAGU coach Donnie Bostwick said. “That’s when we turned up our defense and broke open the game. Overall, it was a quality win versus a good USAO team.”

USAO rallied to within 52-48 on a David Tucker, Jr. three-pointer with 11:08 to play. They wouldn’t get closer than that.

SAGU, now 12-1 overall and 5-0 in the Sooner Athletic Conference, dashed the Drovers’ hopes with another run, this one an 11-0 surge to make it 63-48 with 7:13 left to play.

On four occasions they had a 16-point upper hand, the last coming at 80-64 with 1:35 remaining. USAO (5-7, 2-3 in SAC) scored the final seven points.

“Another step in the right direction” is how Donnie Bostwick described the game.

The teams met in the opening round of the NAIA tournament in Kansas City last March where the Lions rallied for a 62-58 win.

“We shot the ball well because we made the extra, unselfish pass and made each other look good,” Bostwick said. “It is the same story; enjoy the win tonight, recharge on Sunday, and then refocus for the next big challenge.”

For all of the Lions’ defensive vigor, the Drovers had plenty of verve themselves. They made 47 percent of their shots in the first half and 55 percent in the second.

SAGU was led by Dominique Rambo and Jonathan Walter. The pair made plays throughout the game – on both ends of the floor.

Rambo bucketed 23 points. It included four triples and five-of-six free throws.

Those numbers hardly tell the story. The five-foot-10 senior grabbed seven rebounds, distributed five assists, collected two steals and made only two turnovers.

Walter continues to produce, netting 19 points on eight-of-13 shooting. He also latched onto seven boards.

Caleb Feemster was credited with 13 points in a game that saw him get only eight shots. He added five rebounds and knocked down a trio of treys.

Emmanuel Adoyi is finding his rhythm. The sophomore had 10 points by stroking five-of-eight from the field. He led both teams with eight rebounds.

Caleb Gentry spent the whole game defending with his all out effort on full display. He totaled just seven points and seldom shot while registering three assists and two steals. The blue collar worker was tops in minutes played (34).

The Lions took advantage of a 34-28 edge on the boards that included a 12-7 margin at the offensive glass.

As the only unbeaten team in league play in the SAC, the Lions hold a one-game lead over No. 12 St. Gregory’s University (13-1, 4-1) and Wayland Baptist University (12-2, 3-1).