Even if the result wasn't that big of a surprise, the cushion by which host Vanguard University defeated Golden State Athletic Conference men's basketball powerhouse Concordia was enough to leave the Lions and their fans giddy.
Vanguard, which defeated the Eagles last season at home for the first time in five seasons, dropped a 94-79 thumping on the program that had won six of the last eight GSAC regular-season titles. The Eagles (16-5, 3-2 in conference) also came in ranked No. 8 in the NAIA, four spots ahead of the Lions.
The victory, propelled by a 30-point performance from senior guard Preston Wynne, not only extended the Lions' winning streak to 13 games and upped their record to 18-2, 5-0, it gave them a two-game lead in the conference standings over Concordia and Biola.
Vanguard Coach Rhett Soliday, who played and was an assistant coach at Concordia, said his team matched the Eagles' trademark toughness, winning the rebounding battle, 40-32, committing two fewer turnovers than the visitors and maintaining the lead nearly the final 32 minutes.
"But we knew that to beat them, it's not enough to match their toughness," Soliday said. " You have to make plays too and our guys made big plays. They stuck big shots when we needed them and they made enough plays. We got 19 offensive rebounds. They just went after the ball and that's the only way you beat [the Eagles] because they are so tough."
Down, 17-15, Vanguard used a 10-3 run to take control ended the first half on a 6-2 roll that gave it a 46-39 advantage.
After Concordia, which lost its senior scoring leader, Tim Harris, to academic ineligibility after 14 games and has gone just 4-3 since, scored the first point of the second half, the Lions reeled off the next 12 points and were never really threatened again.
The Lions led by as many as 25 as junior point guard Chris Gorman (17 points, six assists, five rebounds and three steals) continually came up big, as did junior guard DeAngelo Jones, who had 17 points, five assists and five rebounds.
Wynne connected on 10 of 19 field-goal attempts, including four of nine from three-point range, He also netted all six of his foul shots as Vanguard sank 19 of 21 from the line.
"He's the best player I've ever coached and he's one of the toughest," Soliday said of Wynne, who at one stretch during the second half, made five straight shots from the field, including a pair of threes to help take all hope from the Eagles.
Junior Keith Mason had 10 points and six rebounds, while senior Swing Chuang chipped in six points and six boards to round out the starters for the winners. Zach Allmon, a 6-foot-8 freshman reserve, had 10 points in 13 strong minutes. Allmon made all three shots from the field and all four from the free-throw line to lead a bench brigade that included qualify minutes from Myles Smith, Noel Larkins, Selle Hann, Jordan Diandy and Tony Zaragoza.
Soliday, who is best of friends with veteran Concordia head man Ken Ammann, even called timeout with 53 seconds left to create curtain calls for his standouts.
And Soliday said afterward that nothing this team does should surprise anyone.
"I think the guys have kind of gotten together and said losing is not an option," Soliday said. "That's coming from them and not form us [coaches]. Obviously at whatever point, this streak is going to end, because it's hard to keep it going since the GSAC is too good for that. But they really are taking it one game at a time and trying to max out with the 40 minutes they are given in front of them. And I really fell they will do that again Saturday."
Saturday, the Lions play host to No. 23-ranked Hope International, which already knocked off Concordia and is coming off a second-place regular-season conference finish last year to Westmont. The game tips off at 7:30.
Golden State Athletic Conference
Vanguard 94, Concordia 79
CU – Grosey 11, M. Harris 10, Simpson 4, Douse 11, Phifer 9, Frazier 11, Stangl 10, Smith 8, Abernathy 3, Davis 2.
3-pt. goals – Frazier 1, Stangl 1.
Fouled out – None.
Technicals – None.
VU – Chuang 6, Mason 10, Wynne 30, Gorman 17, Jones 17, Allmon 10, Diandy 2, Larkins 2.
3-pt. goals – Wynne 4, Gorman 1, Jones 1.
Fouled out – None.
Technicals – None.
Halftime – VU, 46-39.