SAN ANTONIO (Dec. 17, 2012) -- Texas College has always been a formidable opponent for the Our Lady of the Lake University (OLLU) men's basketball team. In six previous matches, the Saints have won just one game against the Steers. Last night looked like the Saints were going to suffer another loss, but the team fought through and won 88-80.
The win moves the Saints to 5-1 in the Red River Athletic Conference and 6-5 overall, while Texas College, the nation's 24th ranked team, suffered its first conference loss moving to 7-1 and 12-2 overall. The Steers are one game ahead of the Saints and Southwestern Assemblies of God University (6-2/11-3).
Head Coach Russell Vanlandingham said, "After tonight, we have finally figured out our identity as a team. We are learning to filter out all the things that do not matter. I am exceptionally proud of the guys tonight because Texas College is for real; they are a talented team, so this was a legitamite win for us."
The Saints missed five shots in a row, while Texas College sank four to take a quick 12-0 lead. Lo'Ron Smith finally found the net for two points, but the Steers continued to push through to lead 16-2. After 13 minutes had passed, the Saints still struggled to get their offensive attack started. Robert Martinez fired off a 3-pointer that set off a 9-0 run for the Saints to take them to 16-20. A 3-pointer from Smith tied the score at 22, and a field goal from Marcus Thompson (pictured at right) gave the Saints their first lead of the game at 24-22.
The Steers fought on to gain back the lead at the sixth minute, and they went up by five at 31-26. A 3-pointer from Martinez tied the score at 31 and after two more ties, the Saints kept the lead through to the half at 42-38. Neither team was excelling in shooting during the first period, with OLLU taking a slight lead at 48 percent compared to 40 percent for Texas College. The Saints had accumulated 16 turnovers, while forcing 11 on the Steers.
The Saints held on to the lead for the first four minutes of the second half, when Texas College pulled ahead by three at 50-47. The teams tied three more times, until a basket from AJ Govan (pictured at left) gave the Saints the 62-60 lead. Even though the Saints never gave up the lead again, the game remained close with the Steers coming to within two points.
A free throw from Trent Cox gave the Saints their biggest lead of the evening at 86-76. A foul on Govan gave him the opportunity to score on two shots, and Texas' Eddren McCain sank the game's last basket to end the game at 88-80.
Both teams had 26 turnovers each. The Saints connected on 28-of-66 field goals for 42 percent, 12-of-27 3-pointers for 44 percent and 20-of-25 free throws for 80 percent. Texas College connected on 30-of-65 field goals for 46 percent, 1-of-10 3-pointers for 10 percent and 19-of-24 free throws for 79 percent.
Martinez led all players in scoring with 27, including 8-of-11 field goals, 7-of-9 3-pointers and 4-of-4 free throws. Smith finished with 20 points, including 8-of-15 field goals, 3-of-7 3-pointers and 1-of-1 free throws. He added seven rebounds and three assists. Govan scored 13 points, and added six assists and four rebounds. Thompson ended with 11 points and six assists. Cox recorded his third double-double scoring 10 points and adding 14 rebounds.
Kerry Jones for Texas College scored 19 points. McCain recorded a double-double with 10 points and 12 assists.
The Saints will be off through the Christmas holiday. They will return to the court on Jan. 1 when they play a non-conference game against Northwood University. On Jan. 5, they continue their conference schedule in Marshall against Wiley College and on Jan. 7 in Shreveport against LSU.
Saints Reporter Michael Thompson interviewed Coach Vanlandingham after the game against Texas College.