FRESNO, Calif. --- If the previous 86-81 California Baptist University victory—the No. 25-ranked Lancers’ lowest scoring margin—over Fresno Pacific back on Dec. 14 was any indication, the road to 13-0 would be no easy feat with the Sunbirds standing in the way.
"These guys love to compete, whether it's on the road or at home," said head coach Rick Croy. "We did a good job preparing for a tough game."
Despite a valiant effort from the host squad, the Lancers prevailed to defeat FPU 81-67, improving to 13-0 on the season and remain on top of the PacWest at 7-0, with the season series sweep. The 13-game unbeaten streak becomes a single-season record and ties the program’s best winning stretch. FPU falls to 5-9 overall and 0-6 in conference action with the loss.
"We continue to grow in our belief that every night is going to be a battle," said Croy. "It doesn't matter how many games we've won. It takes all of us together to get the job done on someone else's home court."
"Eric and Garrett were outstanding tonight," said Croy. "They're leadership, competitiveness and play making were at a high level. They've been great all year, but they were something special tonight."
Four Lancers finished the night in double figures, led by Anthony Cosentino’s 16-point effort off 6-of-11 shooting from the field, 3-of-5 from beyond the arc and a perfect 1-for-1 at the free throw line.
Jefferson followed with 13 points (6-of-12) and Ryan Berg and Chris Brown rounded out the quartet with 12 and 11 points, respectively. Berg struggled a little from the field, but hit a perfect 6-of-6 free throw shots. Brown went 3-of-8 from the field and 5-of-8 at the line.
"We've enstilled a blue collar work ethic and put a lot of chips in during the preseason," said Croy. "It gives us good confidence. We have great depth and we're selfless. It's a powerful combination."
Like they have in all but one contest, the Lancers scored the first points of the game off a layup from Kevin Crabb.
FPU responded with an 8-3 run to take over the lead, but CBU rallied back within one at 8-7 off two free throws from Berg and continued on a 5-2 run to take back the lead and force the Sunbirds to call a timeout.
Now in front 12-10, CBU added another five points—all from Michael Smith—before the Sunbirds could stop the scoring spree.
After FPU bucketed two points, Cosentino responded with a three and Jefferson drove to the basket to put CBU up by double-digits at 22-12 and 9:16 left in the first.
Forcing a turnover to go back on offense, the Lancers’ lead extended to 12 points after Hunt hustled to grab an offensive rebound and finished a layup with just under nine minutes remaining before halftime.
FPU battled back, however, tying the game at 30-30. Hunt gave the Lancers back the lead, but the Sunbird’s Malcolm Griffin sank a three to give his squad a one-point advantage.
Undeterred, Berg snatched back the lead with a shot from distance of his own. After FPU scored a basket, the Lancers caught the Sunbirds sleeping on defense to go back in front by three at 38-35 off a dunk from Crabb heading into halftime.
Coming out of the break, Berg initiated a 5-1 run to open the second frame with a three-pointer, followed by a layup from Smith.
The Sunbirds evened the game once again at 43-43 off two chances at the charity stripe, but Cosentino responded with a jumper and a three to keep the Sunbirds at bay. Crabb completed the 7-0 run with a strong layup under the basket, putting the score at 50-43 in favor of the Lancers.
Before CBU could grab too much momentum, FPU answered back to tie the game at 50-50 off a seven-point run.
The Lancers jumped back out in front at 61-54 with just under 10 minutes remaining and drew a foul. With just seven players suited up, the Sunbirds lost a man in their arsenal as Jonathan Jefferson fouled out.
"We knew it would be a 40-minute game," said Croy. "If we could keep our conviction in what we do, we knew condition would be a factor in the long run. That's been a key for us this year."
Heading down the stretch with a 68-58 lead, FPU started to unravel despite turning on the defensive pressure. Hunt gave the Lancers their biggest lead of the night, sinking a shot from downtown to put CBU in front 73-60.
After Crabb made a crucial block on defense, Berg drew a foul to finish two shots at the line, opening the Lancers’ lead to 77-63. FPU tried to foul back into the game, but Hunt completed his two free shots to put CBU ahead by 16.
With just 30 seconds left in the contest, Brown finished a free shot, which would be the last score for either side as the Lancers closed out the game with the 81-67 victory.
"I feel like our guys have been through quite a lot already," said Croy. "Tonight we gained more belief in our depth. We need to come out prepared again for a battle on Monday."
The Lancers remain on the road as they head to Notre Dame de Namur for a Monday night tipoff at 7:30 p.m. CBU will look to build on its winning streak and take another game off the Argonauts after defeating them 80-61 at home last week.