Men's Basketball: Lions wake up for win

With nine days since their last game, members of the Vanguard University men's basketball team needed more than subtle reminders Friday about some of the of the fundamental aspects of execution, Coach Rhett Soliday said.

But in the first of two games in the four-team Bill Reynolds Holiday Classic against Bethesda University, the Lions showed their new-found muscle memory that relates to winning wasn't adversely affected by the break.

Vanguard overcame a bit of a sluggish start to record a 92-60 triumph over the Anaheim-based school that fell to 1-12.

It was the sixth straight win for Vanguard, which improved to 11-2 with two more games remaining before it opens Golden State Athletic Conference play at San Diego Christian on Jan. 14. The Lions' average margin of victory this season is 21 points.

The 11-2 record is the best start in as long as anyone currently associated with the program can remember and the Lions showed glimpses of why there is growing optimism about their chances to fare well in the rugged GSAC this season.

"We definitely had some rust from the break," Soliday said of his squad, which opened one for five from the field and trailed, 17-16, just more than eight minutes into the contest.

But led by its prolific trio of starting guards — senior Preston Wynne and juniors Chris Gorman and DeAngelo Jones — the Lions used a 12-3 spurt that produced a 29-20 advantage and firmly established command with 8:54 left in the opening half.

Jones, in his first season after transferring from Spokane Community College, which also sent Wynne to the Lions last season, had three three-pointers on his way to 17 first-half points. He was five for six from the field and three for four from three-point range to help give the hosts a 47-33 halftime advantage.

Wynne also drained three three-pointers on his way to 15 first-half points, while Gorman scored 12 of his 15 points after halftime.

Jones finished with 21 points and made seven of 10 shots from the field. He was also four for four from the foul line, while contributing seven rebounds, four assists and one steal.

Wynne finished with 17 points to go with four assists and one steal, while Gorman wound up with four rebounds, two assists and one steal.

"We know our guards can really score, but I was a little disappointed," Soliday said of the reliance on perimeter production. "One of the things we have to do is establish that we are an inside-out team, because it's going to make our guards even better. But we didn't really establish that tonight, partly because we weren't looking inside enough early on and partly because our big guys weren't demanding the ball enough."

Starting forwards Keith Mason, a 6-8 junior transfer from Los Angeles Harbor Community College, and 6-5 senior Swing Chuang, combined for just five points and six rebounds, though reserves Zach Allmon (14 points and three rebounds) and Jordan Diandy (four points, 11 rebounds, two steals and one assist, helped the Lions produce a 34-8 bench-scoring advantage, as well as a 40-29 rebounding edge.

"We're deeper than we have been, and that is without T.J. Burke [a 6-9, 230-pound sophomore bounce-back from UC Riverside], who is out with a torn ACL sustained in his first game back," Soliday said. "He would have been one of our best big guys. He was coming back from a torn ACL at Riverside and had been practicing two weeks and was really looking good. Then he tore the ACL in his other knee in the first few minutes of his first game back. It was a freak accident."

Mason came in averaging 9.8 points and 4.8 rebounds per game and Allmon, who started seven games, was averaging 9.4 points and a team-leading 6.8 rebounds.

Soliday said he has settled on bringing Allmon, a 6-8 freshman bounce-back from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, off the bench to relieve Chuang, as both respond better to their current roles.

The Lions responded in the second half, opening on a 10-0 run and dialing up their trademark defensive pressure to help force 13 of the Flames 24 turnovers after intermission.

In its first 12 games (an 82-73 loss at Division I Grand Canyon University was an exhibition game that did not count on Vanguard's record), the Lions had forced 249 turnovers, while committing just 140. Vanguard had just 13 turnovers, with just five coming in the final 20 minutes.

Vanguard completes the tournament, named for the late Bill Reynolds who guided the Lions to 10 seasons of at least 20 wins in 17 seasons at the helm from 1981 to 1998, Saturday at 6 p.m. against Pacific Union College. The Lions then play the University of Northern British Columbia on Monday at 5:30 p.m. to complete the preconference portion of their schedule.

Soliday said his guys are ready for conference play.

"I think we're a little bit anxious," said Soliday, who noted the Lions' best basketball is ahead of them. "We have kind of solidified our rotation and some of those things, so now the guys are kind of ready [for conference play]. And, I think among some of the returners, there is the feeling that there is some unfinished business. We felt like we underachieved a little bit in conference last year [going 6-8 to finish fifth in the eight-team GSAC]. We had some great wins, but we left some games out there that would have given us a chance to be a tournament team."


Bill Reynolds Holiday Classic

First round

Vanguard 92, Bethesda 60

Beth – Harris 5, Chavez 18, Obrien 11, Hallaway 10, Reynolds 8, Elliot 4, Rizzo 2, Walker 1, Miller 1.

3-pt. goals – Reynolds 2, Chavez 2, Obrien 2.

Fouled out – None.

Technicals – None.

VU – Mason 4, Chuang 1, Jones 21, Wynne 17, Gorman 15, Allmon 14, Sheplay 5, Hann 4, Diandy 4, Fougnies 3, Muandumba 2, Larkins 2.

3-pt. goals – Gorman 3, Wynne 3, Jones 3, Allmon 1, Fougnies 1.

Fouled out – None.

Technicals – None.

Halftime – VU, 47-33.

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