RIVERSIDE, Calif. --- Despite holding an impressive eight-game win streak, California Baptist University head coach Rick Croy knew his team could never rest easy when it steps out on the court.
CBU came out determined to keep its unbeaten streak in tact and despite holding its lowest scoring margin of the season, the Lancers held on to an 86-81 victory.
The win marks history as the 9-0 record CBU now holds is the program’s best-ever start to the season. The Lancers continue PacWest action with a 3-0 conference record, while the Sunbirds fall to 5-5 overall, 0-2 in the PacWest.
“It feels great," said Croy of the milestone. "It wasn’t a goal we set in the beginning. We’ve set some other goals we’re in pursuit of, while also trying to enjoy the journey.”
Five CBU hoopsters finished the night with double figures, led by freshman Ryan Berg’s 20 points (6-for-15). Anthony Cosentino came closely in second, ending the night with 18 points (6-for-9), followed by Ivan Patterson with 13 points (4-for-8). Rounding out the double-digit scoring for the Lancers were Michael Smith and Chris Brown with 12 and 10 points, respectively.
The Lancers opened the night with an 8-1 run, once again grabbing the first points of the contest, as Kevin Crabb scored six shots from the charity stripe and Berg drove to the basket.
Shaking off their slow start, the Sunbirds responded with an 8-0 run to take their first lead of the night at 9-8, commencing a back-and-forth battle as each side fought to take control of the game.
With CBU in front 27-23 and 8:20 on the clock, the Lancers went on another 8-1 run to take their highest lead of the half of 11 points at 35-24.
The Sunbirds managed to put the game within one point with just over three minutes remaining at 35-34. Smith, Patterson and Crabb combined to help CBU ride out the first half on a 7-1 run, standing in front 42-35 at halftime.
Smith kept the momentum rolling for the Lancers with the first shot out of the break, sinking one from long range to put CBU back in front by double-digits.
FPU kept on CBU’s tails, however, cutting the lead back into single digits each time the Lancers opened up the game until CBU finally broke through with 15:02 remaining in the contest off another Smith shot from beyond the arc.
CBU held onto the double-digit advantage for six minutes, but the Sunbirds went on a 7-0 run to slice the Lancers’ 10-point lead in half at 65-60 and 8:47 left to play.
Cosentino ended the Sunbirds’ terror with a three-pointer from distance, putting CBU in front by eight.
With just under eight minutes remaining in the contest, the Sunbirds turned on pressure in the Lancers’ backcourt, looking to break down CBU’s lead.
Leading 72-67 as the two teams headed down the stretch, Berg extended the Lancers’ lead to seven points and forced the FPU head coach to call a timeout.
The Sunbirds came out of the break to score back-to-back layups through traffic, putting the game within one possession at 74-71 and 3:51 remaining on the clock. FPU brought the game even closer, stealing the ball away from the Lancers to put the score within just one point and then took over the lead at 2:21, 75-74.
The lead didn’t last long, however, as Berg sank a three to give CBU back the upper hand at 77-75.
With just over a minute remaining, and intensity building in Van Dyne, FPU called another timeout looking to regroup.
CBU keyed in on defense as Crabb took advantage of a misplayed pass, putting the Lancers back on the attack. Patterson drew a foul to take his place at the free-throw line, sinking his first shot to put the Lancers in front 78-75.
Berg made it a two-possession game with two shots at the line, giving CBU a 80-75 lead and less than 30 seconds remaining.
With 18 seconds on the clock, Johnell Thompson hit a three-pointer to give the Sunbirds hope, trailing 80-78.
FPU fouled Patterson with 15.8 seconds left, allowing Patterson to finish both his shots at the line. Double-teamed, Thompson missed his chance from beyond the arc and Brown drew a foul after claiming the rebound.
Brown completed both of his chances at the charity stripe with the double bonus, but Malcolm Griffin sank a three to put the game back within one possession.
Berg finished two more shots at the line to secure the win for the Lancers, lifting CBU 86-81 over the Sunbirds.
“We knew FPU had a lot of weapons," said Croy. "We did a good job controlling a few of them. Credit to our opponent though, they hit some tough shots and did a good job in press. I’m proud that our guys finished the game. That’s one of the trademarks of this team, they believe.”
The Lancers continue their four-game home stand with a Wednesday night contest against Dominican, tipping off at 7:30 p.m.
“We have to stay hungry," said Croy. "Every team in this league is good. We also have to keep our understanding of who we are. That’s the best and most important thing.”