Pioneers in 1st after 20-point win over No. 12 MACU

Pioneers in 1st after 20-point win over No. 12 MACU
Source: Wayland Baptist Athletics

PLAINVIEW, TX (KCBD) - Information provided by Wayland Baptist Athletics

It took some time to get here, but the Wayland Baptist Pioneers are playing basketball the way their coach always hoped they would.

"It finally kind of looks the way I hoped it would at the start of the season," Wayland coach Ty Harrelson said after the No. 21 Pioneers secured their second win over a Top 25 team in three days, this time knocking off No. 12 Mid-America Christian on Saturday afternoon in Hutcherson Center, 75-55.

"This is a great team win," Harrelson said.

The victory over the 2016 NAIA national champions allows Wayland (12-3, 5-2 SAC) to take over sole possession of first place in the Sooner Athletic Conference. The Pioneers went into the day tied at the top with MACU (10-5, 4-3) and John Brown, but the Golden Eagles (9-6, 4-3) lost Saturday at Southwestern Assemblies of God, 81-73.

Led by Ruben Lopez with 16 points, five players scored in double-figures for Wayland. In addition, two Pioneers recorded double-doubles: first-year senior Samuel Kalwanyi with 11 points and 12 rebounds, and junior Josh Throns with 11 points and a career-high 11 boards.

Other Pioneers with double-digit points were Kraig Shields with 14 and Trevonta Robertson with 12.

"This is the second game in a row where we had five or more guys in double figures," said Harrelson, who saw six of his players score at least a dozen points in Thursday's 96-74 win over No. 20 Science & Arts of Oklahoma. "It shows we have a lot of weapons. It can be a different player on any day."

It was that depth on offense and the Pioneers' defense which impressed Harrelson the most, along with a dominant 49-27 rebounding advantage.

"To hold a top-15 team to (55 points)… . I'm really proud of our defensive effort," Harrelson said. "With the length and athleticism we've added inside we're making people take tough shots. If we continue to do that think we will have a really successful season."

It was WBU's second-best defensive effort of the season. The Pioneers held Jarvis Christian to 53 points on Nov. 20, which was the lowest for a WBU opponent since the 2013-14 season.

MACU shot 33 percent (18-of-54) from the field, including just 25 percent (7-of-28) in the second half. The Evangels made 8-of-30 (27 percent) from 3-point range and were just 11-of-21 (52 percent) from the foul stripe.

"I thought Kraig was a big difference. He changed a lot of shots and finished at the rim when we needed him to. We were able to give him some nice dump-offs," Harrelson said.

Shields is the 6-foot-8 transfer who along with the 6-7 Kalwanyi joined the line-up at semester.

"That depth inside makes a huge difference," Harrelson said. "Our guards are always good. Ruben is playing fantastic basketball. I know his stats might not be player-of-the-week caliber, but he runs a lot of stuff and gets the ball where it needs to go when it needs to go there."

Lopez dished out a team-high five assists and had five rebounds.

The game went back-and-forth for the first eight minutes until Wayland took control. A 3-pointer by Throns and a dunk by Kalwanyi started and finished a 9-0 run that gave the Pioneers a 24-15 lead.

The Pioneers never trailed after that.

MACU – which wore practice jerseys (with no numerals on the front) because the Evangels' game jerseys were left in Oklahoma City – pulled to within three on a couple of occasions early in the second half. But Wayland slowly began to pull away, going up by double-digits, 49-39, at the 11-minute mark then gradually taking the lead to 20 points.

MACU got 16 points from Jordan Rhodes, the Evangels' only starter in double figures. Therence Mayimba added 14 points and Andre Horne 10.

Wayland will play its third game in five days at 8 p.m. Monday when the Pioneers host Oklahoma Panhandle State (9-4, 3-3), which defeated MACU on Thursday, 85-80. The Cowboys hosted USAO on Saturday.

"They can really score," Harrelson said of OPSU. "Coach (Jerry) Olson has been there a long time (14 years, including 11 as head men's coach) and does a good job. They are our travel partner (in the SAC) so we've watched them a lot on video. I like the way Coach Olson has them playing."