WBU MEDIA RELATIONS
WBU MEDIA RELATIONS
PLAINVIEW, Texas —
Matt Garnett knew the St. Gregory's University Cavaliers were better than their record, and they proved it on Saturday afternoon in Hutcherson Center. Garnett's Wayland Baptist Pioneers also proved something, however: They still have a little something to say in the Sooner Athletic Conference race.
Juhreece Thompson had a double-double with 25 points and 13 rebounds, and four of his teammates also scored in double figures as Wayland used overtime to defeat upset-minded St. Greg's, 85-79.
“We needed a win,” Garnett said. “This was one of those games where our resiliency and our toughness were going to be tested, and our guys really answered the call.”
The victory ended a three-game losing skid for the Pioneers (14-11, 5-7 SAC) while the Cavaliers (6-15, 0-11) remained winless in conference play. SGU has dropped 13 games in a row, including all nine of its road outings.
Garnett called the game a “gut check” for the Pioneers, who were coming off a 69-48 loss to No. 10 Oklahoma Baptist on Thursday when Wayland scored its fewest points in Garnett's two seasons here.
“These last two weeks have been a big test to their commitment and their character,” Garnett said of his players. “Sometimes when you get on a losing streak you can lose perspective, so a win settles you down and makes you remember and recommit to the process. Whether you're on a winning streak or a losing streak, you can't get caught up in the big picture too much. No matter the situation, we just have to keep focusing on us and be excited to be here and excited to have the chance to get better.”
Regulation ended with the scored tied at 70 after St. Greg's Brock Vorwald hit his first 3-pointer of the game following five misses from the top of the key with seven seconds left. The teams traded turnovers after that and neither side got off a shot, forcing overtime.
That's when the Pioneers really got it rolling, outscoring the Cavaliers 15-9 in the extra five-minute period.
“We got off to a good start in overtime,” Garnett said. “Our guys recovered from the fact that (St. Gregory's) made a big shot to send us into overtime and didn't let them take that momentum into OT. It's always important to get the first basket and the first stop, and you have to have an attack mentality to do that.”
Tanner Hazelbaker scored the first OT bucket, sending Wayland on a 10-2 run when Hazelbaker and Travis Payton both hit 3-pointers. SGU never got closer than five points after that.
The Pioneers put the game on ice at the free-throw line, despite struggling a bit and hitting just 7-of-16 charity shots in the extra period. Thompson went 6-of-10 at the line in OT and 13-of-17 overall.
All five WBU starters scored in double figures. Besides Thompson, Reggie Fondren went for 14 points, Eric Milam and Payton added 13 apiece, and Hazelbaker put in 10.
Fayzon Richey and Vorwald led the Cavs with 16 points each. Before he fouled out, Richey made just 4-of-18 field goals and was held five points below his average.
“Richey is a big-time player, and Reggie made him work for everything he got,” Garnett said of Fondren's defense against the SAC's second-leading scorer and the NAIA's 10th top point maker.
It was Thompson's first double-double of the season, and he came within two points of matching his season scoring high of 27, which he got in the fifth game of the season against Dallas Baptist. That is Wayland's only other overtime game of the season, and the Pioneers also won that one, 80-79.
Garnett said Thompson “faced some adversity” early in the game, “and I really got after him. But I couldn't be more proud of his response to his adversity. He decided no matter what he wasn't going to give in. That's a real testament to the young man he is.”
Thompson played a key role when the Cavaliers appeared to be taking control. With St. Greg's leading 47-40 with 12:20 left to play, Hazelbaker nailed a 3-pointer before Thompson converted a 3-point play to quickly take it to a one-point deficit.
“At that point we were able to make some plays and pull together,” Garnett said. “They pulled together when things got tough, which has been our biggest focus of late.”
After the Cavs went back up by six, Thompson put down one of several slams in the game. Shortly after that, Wayland went on a 12-2 run to go from a six-point hole to a four-point, 62-58 lead thanks to a 3-pointer by Fondren.
The Pioneers never trailed again, although there was one more tie following Vorwald's clutch 3-pointer that forced overtime.
Garnett said the Pioneers should savor the victory.
“You're not guaranteed anything, so any time you can find a time to get something done together, you need to celebrate that together,” the coach said. “We have to really enjoy the journey.”
That journey takes the Pioneers on a tough road trip next week as Wayland plays its final regular-season road games by going to Siloam Springs, Ark., to take on fourth-ranked John Brown University on Thursday night then heading to Claremore, Okla., for a Saturday afternoon contest against No. 20 Rogers State. Wayland ends the regular season by hosting Lubbock Christian on Feb. 19, then USAO on Feb. 23.
“There won't be (a game left) on the schedule that's easy,” Garnett said. “We just have to keep focusing on the next day.”