SAN ANTONIO (Jan. 21, 2013) -- Led by seniors Robert Martinez and Lo'Ron Smith, the Our Lady of the Lake University (OLLU) men's basketball team won a thriller against conference-rival Texas Wesleyan University (TWU) Monday night.
The 103-81 win moves the Saints to 13-7 overall and 10-3 in the Red River Athletic Conference, while Texas Wesleyan, drops to 13-7 overall and 8-6 in the conference. The Saints are ½ a game behind league-leader Southwestern Assemblies of God University (16-3/10-2), and the Rams are three games behind.
Head Coach Russell Vanlandingham said, "Our guys played with purpose tonight, and they competed for 40 minutes. This was a good step for us."
An abundance of emotions were on the floor at tip off for both teams on Monday night, especially in regard to their history. The two teams were conference co-champions of the Saints' inaugural season in 2009-2010, and in 2010-2011, the Rams beat the Saints twice and won the conference title. Last season, the Saints beat the Rams twice and went on to win the conference title. Earlier this year, the Saints lost to the Rams 71-89, but tonight's team was much-more focused than the one that suffered that loss in Fort Worth.
Saints captain Marcus Thompson (pictured at left) put the first points on the board after the tip off from Virgil Cissoko. A 3-pointer from Rams' Oscar Griffin gave his team the advantage, but OLLU's Martinez (pictured at right) sunk one in to tie the score a few minutes later. The Saints would carry a three-point lead through the 15th minute, but an 8-0 run from the Rams gave them the 13-10 advantage.
Several off-putting dunks from Griffin seemed to spark the Saints to gain back their momentum to go up 22-19. The teams had their fifth tie at 26-26, and a 3-pointer from Martinez gave the Saints their biggest lead of the half at 36-29. After a field goal from OLLU senior Mike Brown, Martinez attempted a half-court shot, but it hit the rim to end the half with the Saints leading 40-33.
Baskets from Thompson, Smith and Martinez gave the Saints the lead at 47-39. The game's first technical fouls were called after five minutes had passed. TWU's Kyle Preston and Brown were both assessed a "T" after words were exchanged between the two. Although a scuffle was prevented, two Saints' players – Bridge Lavey and Mike Willie -- were ejected for leaving the bench. NAIA rules indicate they will have to sit out the next game, as well.
Less than 20 seconds later, a technical foul was called on TWU's Dallas Jones for excessive behavior after an offensive rebound. And, Griffin received a technical 20 seconds later for similar reasons.
The Saints continued to lead increasing their advantage to 69-49. With less than 12 minutes remaining, OLLU's Marcel Campos received a technical.
With the Saints leading 75-56, Thompson received his fifth foul, and had to leave the game. Brown (pictured at right) left the game with seven minutes remaining after his fifth foul.
A near half-court shot from Martinez took the Saints to 95-69 for their biggest lead of the evening. After two more 3-pointers and several free throws, the Saints ended the game winning 103-81.
Martinez finished with 36 points, including 10-of-14 field goals, 7-of-8 free throws and a career-tying regular season nine 3-pointers that Eddie Ortiz set earlier this season. He also had nine assists. Smith scored 29 points, including 11-of-25 from the field, 6-of-15 from 3-point range and 1-of-3 free throws. The Saints shot 47 percent from the field, 51 percent from 3-point range and 71 percent from the free throw line. They forced 21 turnovers while committing 15.
The Rams shot 42 percent from the field, 17 percent from 3-point range and 72 percent from the free throw line. Their highest scorer was Griffin, who finished with 18 points.
The Saints will travel to Dallas on Thursday to play Paul Quinn College in a nonconference game.
The NAIA Champions of Character program aims to instill five core values in NAIA athletes, coaches: respect, responsibility, integrity, servant leadership, and sportsmanship. Our Lady of the Lake University shares and supports these values and strives to promote the Champions of Character program by working with students, coaches through our Champions of Character educational program. For more information on the Champions of Character program, click here: www.championsofcharacter.org.
Luis A. Lárraga
Sports Information Assistant