The streak is over. The St. Gregory's University men's basketball team opened up a big lead, and then held on late for a 56-53 victory over Wayland Baptist in the play-in game of the Sooner Athletic Conference Tournament Wednesday at the Noble Complex.
The Cavalier win snapped an 18-game skid overall and earned the school's first postseason victory since 1997. SGU hadn't won a game since Nov. 30 against Johnson & Wales University.
Two-time All-American Fayzon Richey led all scorers with 21 points on 7 of 15 shooting. SGU won despite making only four second-half field goals, finishing the game at 37 percent after shooting 52 percent in the first half.
"It was good to address our guys in locker room after a win and not see the long faces in there," said SGU coach John Martin. "We played well. Our guys knew it was win or go home, and they poured their hearts out tonight."
The Cavalier defensive effort was key, as they held WBU to only 32 percent from the field for the game. SGU scored 30 points off 18 Pioneer turnovers for the game and held WBU to only two field goals in the last eight minutes of each half.
"We've played in a lot of close games," Martin said. "To finally come out on top in one of these is a good experience for our guys."
The Cavs made only three of their first 11 shots and trailed 11-6 just six minutes in. But SGU turned it around quickly, going on an 11-0 run over the next 2-plus minutes to lead 17-11. The Cavs weren't done there, finishing a 14-4 spurt at the 2:40 mark with a Dylan Lemley three-point play. That gave SGU its largest lead of the game at 36-22, and the designated visiting team had a 12-point advantage at halftime.
The Cavs held WBU to only two field goals in the last 7:41 of the first half and a 32 percent output overall in the first 20 minutes. SGU took advantage of its forced turnovers, converting 23 points off 11 Pioneer miscues in the period.
Fayzon Richey led an offensive attack that hit at a 52 percent clip for the half. He had 17 points on 6 of 9 shooting at the break.
The tables turned quickly in the second half, though, as the once-hot Cavs went cold from the floor. WBU opened the frame with a 14-2 run, and with 14:22 to play, the game was tied at 38. SGU missed 16 of its first 18 shots in the second half.
The Pioneers kept their run going and opened up their largest lead of the game - 48-42 - with 7:57 remaining. But just like in the first half, SGU's defense stiffened up down the stretch, allowing only two WBU field goals the rest of the way.
The Cavs took advantage, and Richard Shields capped an 11-2 run with 3:08 to go to give SGU a 53-50 lead. The Pioneers cut it to one at 54-53 on a Juhreece Thompson lay-up with 41 seconds left before Devonte Young made it a three-point game again with two free throws at the 17-second mark. WBU's last-chance gasp - a Tanner Hazelbaker three from the wing - clanged off the back iron as time expired.
SGU takes on top-seeded John Brown Thursday at 6:15 p.m.