RIVERSIDE, Calif. --- Heading into Wednesday night’s contest, neither California Baptist University nor Dominican University of California had surrendered a PacWest game.
Knowing they would be entering a battle, the Lancers overcame their largest deficit of the season to defeat the Penguins 88-76 and remain undefeated.
The Lancers continue their impressive start to the season, jumping to 10-0 overall, 4-0 in the PacWest. The Penguins fall to 9-3 on the season and 3-1 in conference action, no longer sitting in first with CBU.
Three CBU hoopsters finished the night with double figures, led by a dominating performance by freshman Ryan Berg. The rookie guard ended the night with a career-high 27 points, shooting 50-percent from both the field (8-for-16) and beyond the arc (5-for-10), as well as a perfect 6-for-6 shooting from the foul line.
"Ryan has tremendous self-belief and his teammates and coaching staff believe in him," said Croy. "With those three things, he's hard to guard. He's strong and dangerous from anywhere. It's pretty special to see what he's doing."
Ivan Patterson followed with 17 points off 8-for-15 from the line and Michael Smith ended the night with 10 points (3-for-8). Off the boards, Kevin Crabb led CBU with 11 rebounds, seven of which he picked up on offense.
Dominican grabbed a strong start to the contest, opening the game with a 19-3 run, showing the Lancers their first bout of adversity this season. It was the first time this season CBU had not scored the first basket in a game.
"[I told the boys,] 'Don't panic. I know we have a lot of fight left in us,'" said head coach Rick Croy. "Our guys do such a good job getting ready to play and I don't know if we weren't ready tonight or if Dominican was just that good to start the game. We missed some easy shots and they ran on us. Before we knew it, we were down a lot."
Patterson finally broke through the Penguins’ scoring rampage with a two-point basket, igniting the Lancers on a 6-1 run to cut Dominican’s lead into single digits. Geoff McIntosh sank a shot from distance to put the score at 20-11 before the Penguins could score again.
"We talk every game about how it's a 40-minute endeavor," said Croy. "We knew there was plenty of time left if we played the right way."
The Lancers keyed in on defense, forcing the Penguins to commit a shot-clock violation and surrender the ball, putting CBU back on the attack. Smith battled through traffic to score a layup, but Dominican responded with a layup of its own to go back in front by nine.
Trailing 22-13, Patterson opened a 9-2 run as the Lancers brought the game within one point and forced Dominican to take a timeout.
The Penguins came out of the regrouping with a three-pointer from Devin Golston, but CBU came alive in the remaining six and a half minutes, powering through to score 13 unanswered points and take its first lead of the night at the 5:35 mark.
Berg scored two shots from behind the arc and added a basket in the paint to initiate the 13-0 run and give the Lancers energy. McIntosh capped the run by draining a three of his own, putting CBU out in front 36-27 with 4:20 remaining before halftime.
CBU opened up its lead into double-digits with a layup from Eric Hunt at 2:43 and closed out the half holding a 49-38 advantage over Dominican.
Knowing there was still a whole other half to play, CBU came out of the half looking to keep the Penguins on their heels and build on the momentum it grabbed in the first half after battling back from a 16-point deficit.
Dominican managed to put the game within six points at 66-60, but Crabb made a crucial block to put the Lancers back on offense and Patterson found the basket to put the game at 68-60 and just over eight minutes remaining.
The Penguins fought to put the game within two points at 68-66 heading down the stretch, putting pressure on the Lancers to keep the visiting team at bay.
"We needed to get stops down the stretch," said Croy. "We were having a hard time stopping them. At that point, we were playing with good emotion and intensity, we were just missing assignments. Just reminded them we needed to stick with everything we worked on defensively in the last 48 hours. We were finally able to get some balls off the glass. Our guys are tough down the stretch, it was a character win."
With four minutes left and CBU in front by just three points, Berg drove to the basket and added a high-arching three to open up his team’s lead to eight points at 74-68.
Coming out of a media break, Berg hit two shots from beyond the arc to give CBU a 12-point upper hand, but the Penguins responded with a layup to put the game at 80-70 and just 1:41 left in the contest.
Dominican committed fouls as the clock approached the minute mark, hoping to catch the Lancers flat at the foul line, but CBU’s Brown and Berg went 8-for-8 at the line to give the Lancers the 88-76 victory.
CBU will finish out the 2013 year with a 3 p.m. tipoff against Academy of Art on Saturday, looking to put some distance behind the Lancers in the conference standings.
"We want to finish," said Croy. "We've put a lot of chips in here, invested a lot. We want to finish right. We're totally united and we want to finish this first chapter the right way."