COSTA MESA — It's not swagger, exactly, but the Vanguard University women's basketball team may have its mojo back.
The Lions, ranked No. 10 in the NAIA, handled visiting Concordia, 86-45, in a Golden State Athletic Conference game Tuesday to extend their winning streak to four.
The 41-point bulge marked the biggest margin of victory this season for the Lions (12-3, 6-1 in conference), who last blew out an opponent in the 90-50 season-opening home triumph over La Verne.
"This is the first game [since Nov. 19] that we've blown a team out," said Vanguard assistant coach Bridgette Reyes after the strong performance. "I'm so excited for the girls."
Reyes, a former Vanguard standout who shared NAIA Player of the Year honors in the 2009-10 season, has filled in for Coach Russ Davis the last three games. Davis has been sidelined by issues with his blood pressure, a recurring situation during his 16 seasons at the helm.
Davis missed perhaps his team's best complete game of the season. The Lions forced 31 turnovers while committing just 10, amassed a 43-33 rebounding advantage, including a 20-8 margin on the offensive glass, and produced 21 assists on their 33 field goals while shooting 43.4% from the field.
Further, Vanguard, which has struggled at times offensively this season, received 51 combined points from post players Maree Drennan, Esther Timmermans, Allison Burns and Leigha Bednar to thoroughly outmuscle the Eagles (6-8, 3-4).
Drennan led the winners with 10 points and added four rebounds, sinking eight of 15 field-goal attempts.
Burns was six for 11 from the field on her way to 15 points in 16 minutes off the bench. She added four rebounds and three assists.
Timmermans, last week's GSAC Player of the Week, had 10 points, three rebounds and two steals, while Bednar chipped in eight points and four boards in nine reserve minutes.
"Our bigs are doing a great job," Reyes said. "We're working them into the offense and they are becoming major scoring factors."
Senior guard Paige Halberg, who may inherit more minutes at point guard after sophomore TJ Goddard went down with an apparent left-knee injury in the first half. Goddard, who has been hobbled by problems with her left knee, on which she wears a brace, was in obvious pain and remained on the floor for several minutes after pulling up in the lane on a drive. She was helped from the floor, but Reyes said there will be no definitive word on her status until she sees a doctor.
Halberg ran the show efficiently in the second half and finished with nine assists, eight points and seven rebounds. She had just one turnover and also contributed one steal and one blocked shot.
Halberg consistently broke down Concordia defenders with the dribble and either found opponents for layups or three-pointers, or finished herself to keep the rout on course.
Concordia, which trailed 36-17 at halftime, surrendered the first basket of the second half, before rallying with a 15-6 run to pull within 44-32 with 14:27 left.
But Vanguard then turned the tables for a 33-5 run that spanned nearly the next 10 minutes and widened the lead to 77-37.
Sophomore point guard Taylor Belmont had four assists and four points, while junior Chelsea Alfafara had nine of her 13 points in the opening half and had three of the Lions' four three-pointers.
Vanguard, which has traditionally flourished from beyond the arc, was four of 18 from threedom to see its long-range accuracy dip to 27.4% this season (96 for 350).
Vanguard had a 37-4 edge in points off turnovers and saw its reserves outscore the Concordia bench, 40-14.
Vanguard made half of its 36 field-goal attempts after intermission and had only four second-half turnovers.
Reyes said Davis is expected to return for Saturday's conference road date with Fresno Pacific. She smiled when asked whether the Lions' performance would help keep Davis' blood pressure at acceptable levels.
"Yes, of course," Reyes said.
Golden State Athletic Conference
Vanguard 86, Concordia 45
CUI – Fielder 8, Lange 2, Auberry 11, Taylor 10, Kraus 0, Reed 6, Hansen 4, Elliot 4.
3-pt. goals – Bishop 1.
Fouled out – None.
Technicals – Bishop 1.
VU – M. Drennan 18, Timmermans 10, Halberg 8, A. Drennan 6, Belmont 4, Burns 15, Alfafara 13, Bednar 8, Smith 4.
3-pt. goals – Alfafara 3, Burns 1.
Fouled out – None.
Technicals – Timmermans 1.
Halftime – 36-17, VU.