The Cal Lutheran men’s basketball team took a step into uncharted territory Thursday night with a 88-70 victory over Concordia in the championship game of its own tournament.
Led by the second-half shooting of Damon Ridley (32 points) and Jason Smith (15), Cal Lutheran improved to 9-0, eclipsing its previous best start, an eight-game winning streak in 1983-84.
The nine consecutive victories are also a school record.
Ridley, a 6-foot-2 senior from Cincinnati, and Smith, a 6-5 freshman from Melbourne, Australia, combined for 38 points in the second half, hitting 14 of 18 shots from the field. They were named to the all-tournament team.
Ridley and Smith produced 36 of Cal Lutheran’s 42 points during one stretch of the second half when the Kingsmen extended a 40-38 lead with 16 minutes 9 seconds remaining in the game to 82-64 with 1:51 left.
Ridley, who scored 25 points on nine of 12 shooting in the second half, hit six consecutive shots during one stretch.
“After I hit the second (three-point shot) in a row, I really started to feel good with my shot,” Ridley said. “Everything just felt great.”
“Damon was in a zone,” Cal Lutheran Coach Mike Dunlap said. “I didn’t have anything to do with his performance in the second half. When he gets hot like that, you just let him shoot the ball.”
Cal Lutheran led, 33-32, at halftime, but the Kingsmen had been frustrated by Concordia’s slowdown offense. The slower-paced game and man-to-man defense by the Eagles (8-5) contributed to Cal Lutheran’s 34.3% shooting in the first half.
But the Kingsmen found a higher gear in the second half.
“I told the guys at halftime that it was going to be a game of fitness in the second half,” Dunlap said. “I told them that I wanted them to start pushing the ball up the court and over the top.”
Leading, 40-38, with 16:09 left, Cal Lutheran went on a 18-8 run to take a 58-46 lead with 11:18 remaining.
Dave Ulloa added 17 points for Cal Lutheran, which played much of the game without Rupert Sapwell, who was hampered by foul problems.
Derrick Clark, the tournament most valuable player, added seven points and 10 rebounds for the Kingsmen.
Vujadin Jovic, a 6-7 junior from Belgrade, the capital of the former republic of Yugoslavia, scored 20 points for Concordia and Craig Martin added 17.
“It feels great to be 9-0,” Ridley said. “Now we feel like we’ve got a good chance at going undefeated in preseason and then we’ll start concentrating on conference play.”