The Mid-America Christian University Evangels grabbed an early lead and never trailed in a wire-to-wire victory over the No. 21-ranked University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma Drovers in a Sooner Athletic Conference matchup Thursday night (Jan. 24) inside the Gaulke Activity Center. It's the second straight win for the Evangels and also their second victory over an NAIA Top 25 opponent this year. MACU won 93-84 at then No. 9-ranked Rogers State University earlier this season.
Charlie Shorter and Josh Minner helped the Evangels get off to a fast start by combining for eight points of a 10-2 spurt to open the game.
A bucket by Angelo Lewis and a three from Camilo Valencia grew the lead to 10 at 19-9 and another score by Shorter built the edge to 31-17 at the 6:08 mark of the opening half.
The Evangels (10-6, 5-2 SAC) led by as many as 18 in the first half before a long three by Norris Rumph as time expired pulled the Drovers to within 45-32 at the break.
MACU maintained a double-digit advantage throughout much of the second half until a three-point play from Brandon Cutler capped a 13-2 run that cut the lead to 61-54 with 8:16 remaining.
The Evangels responded though and pushed back the Drovers with a 9-2 surge that expanded the lead back to 70-56 with 4:37 left.
USAO tried to make things interesting down the stretch as consecutive treys from Rumph helped trim the deficit to seven again at 70-63 with 1:08 left.
But that's as close as the Drovers (10-6, 3-5 SAC) would come as the Evangels got the necessary defensive stops and made two free throws to close out the win.
Valencia led four Evangels in double-figures with a game-high 18 points along with a team-high four assists and three steals. Shorter scored 16 and Minner added 12. Lewis chipped in with 11 points and recorded a game-high 12 rebounds.
Rumph paced the Drovers with 17 points and Shavon Scott had 14. Cutler scored 12 and Jahseth Lloyd finished with 10 points and a team-best nine boards.
The Evangels held a 49-39 edge on the boards, with a 34-23 advantage in defensive rebounds. They also hounded the Drovers into only a 33.8 percent (24-of-71) shooting clip overall.
The road doesn't get any easier for the Evangels as they will face another nationally ranked squad Saturday afternoon (Jan. 26) in No. 10-ranked and defending NAIA National Runner-Up Oklahoma Baptist University. Tip-off is set for 5 p.m. in Shawnee, Okla.