RIVERSIDE, Calif. --- California Baptist University has yet to win a game by less than 10 points. Showing no signs of turkey sluggishness from Thanksgiving the day before, the Lancers grabbed their highest scoring margin of the year by defeating Northwest Nazarene 76-56 Friday evening in the Ayres Inn & Suites CBU Classic.
With the result, the Lancers improve to 5-0 on the season, while the Crusaders fall to 1-4 on the season.
As its been since game one, multiple CBU players grabbed double figures in the point column, led by Michael Smith’s effort with 15 total points (5-for-9, 5-for-7 three-pointers). Anthony Cosentino followed with 11 (4-for-6) and Ivan Patterson rounded out the trio with 10 points on the night (4-for-7).
“We had a lot of great performances tonight,” said head coach Rick Croy. “I thought Eric Nelson and Kevin Crabb defended NNU’s center really well. Michael Smith was great offensively and Garrett Jefferson was huge for us, taking the ball to the rim and drawing fouls. Typical Lancer game, you never know who’s going to step up.”
The Lancers dominated the glass, outrebounding NNU 44-28. Crabb led CBU off the boards with 13 rebounds.
“Our guys have been focusing on rebounds and working hard at them at practice,” said Croy. “We realize we need everyone rebounding. We need to rebound by committee, one through five we have to hit the glass. I think we’re doing a better job, but I still think we have room to grow there. We’ve improved, but we need to keep pushing there.”
For the fifth game in a row, CBU scored the first points of the game and never let go of the lead, despite allowing the visiting Crusaders to tie the game twice in the first half.
“I thought Northwest Nazarene was really prepared,” said Croy. “We knew they’d come in here and fight.”
Leading by two at 11-9, the Lancers pushed ahead to grab their first double-digit advantage of the night, going on a nine-point run capped by a layup from Kevin Crabb.
CBU went up by as many as 13 points in the first half, but NNU battled back with an eight-point run to cut the Lancers’ lead back into single digits before halftime. At the break, CBU held a 35-28 margin over the Crusaders.
In the first possession of the second half, the Lancers went back up by double digits as Smith sank a three-pointer off an assist from Cosentino.
NNU kept the game close in the first 10 minutes of the half, but the Lancers slowly started to shake their opponent. CBU took a 16-point lead heading down the stretch, but the Crusaders tried to fight back with a shot from beyond the arc to put the score at 66-53 with just under five minutes left to play.
The Lancers finished out the game with a 10-3 run to win the game 76-56. Chris Brown scored eight of CBU’s last 10 points, including spinning off a defender to finish a backwards layup through traffic.
“We told our guys from the beginning to celebrate wins,” said Croy. “Even though we have to come back out here tomorrow, tonight we’re going to enjoy the win. It was a tough game. We’re very happy with the win and we’ll be ready for Alaska-Fairbanks.”
Looking to keep the momentum rolling, CBU is back at it Saturday night as the Lancers host Alaska-Fairbanks in the second night of the Ayres Inn & Suites CBU Classic, tipping off at 7:30 p.m. The Nanooks fell 77-68 to Azusa Pacific earlier Friday evening. NNU will face APU prior to the Lancers’ game with a 5 p.m. tipoff time.
“We understand who we are,” said Croy. “We know if we’re not ready, anybody can get us and if we are ready, we can get anybody. That’s the way we approach each game. We need to be prepared to play.”