RIVERSIDE, Calif. --- Justus Von Wright had a first half to remember. California Baptist University had a second half it won't soon forget.
Von Wright scored 15 of his 19 points in the first half as the Lancers opened a double-digit lead that increased to as many as 20 and then held off a furious charge from Point Loma Nazarene to hang on for a wire-to-wire 64-57 GSAC victory Tuesday night in the Van Dyne Gym.
The win is the Lancers' fourth in their past five games as they improve to 11-9, 5-6 GSAC, moving within one game of the Sea Lions for fifth place and just two away from Westmont for fourth place. It also avenges a 76-67 loss to the Sea Lions in the GSAC opener back in November.
The Sea Lions drop to 10-10, 6-5 with their fourth loss in five games.
The Lancers never trailed, led by 15 at halftime, and for the second game in a row built up a 20-point second half advantage only having to fend off a furious rally in the end.
"The tendency with big leads is to get complacent, and you can't afford to do that against good teams," said CBU Head Coach Tim Collins. "This is a young group with a lot of new players, and we are still getting used to each other and the pressure of big games. We won this game with our great first half, which forced them to play catch up from the start."
And the Sea Lions very nearly caught all the way up.
Von Wright hit all three of his 3-pointers in the first half, including one at the buzzer that gave the Lancers a 37-22 lead. That lead ballooned to 45-25 on a jumper by Nick Paulson with 15:57 to play before the Sea Lions rallied, and in a big way. They outscored the Lancers 32-15 over the next 15 minutes, whittling the deficit down to a single possession, trailing just 60-57 with 1:35 left.
After a failed possession that resulted in shot clock violation by the Lancers with 46.2 seconds left, Marek Klassen drove the lane and seemingly had an open layup. But as the freshman point guard went up, he lost control of the ball, and it fell into the hands of Luke Evans. The Sea Lions didn't score again, and the Lancers hit 4-of-6 free throws down the stretch to put the game away.
Klassen, the Sea Lions' leading scorer and fourth leading scorer
in the GSAC, finished with just seven points but was limited to just two in the
first 27 minutes.
"We did a good job containing their dribble-drive in the first half," said Collins. "I think we got a little tired in the second half and things began to open up for them. We did enough to hold on, though, and I'm pleased with our effort."
Von Wright was 8-for-16 from the floor, but was 6-for-9 in the first half as the Lancers closed the half with a 14-4 run. He scored the Lancers' first seven points of the game.
"Usually when I focus on scoring, that's when things go wrong, so tonight I wanted to focus on other things like rebounding and then let the offense just come to me naturally," said Von Wright, who is averaging 14.4 points the past nine games. "All of the guys have decided to change their attitudes towards practice, games and their overall preparation each day. We realized that if we're going to do anything, we're going to have to change our attitudes."
Both Von Wright and Evans finished with a team-high seven rebounds. Evans added 12 points, 10 in the second half. Ivan Patterson and Paulson each tallied eight points.
"When Justus is shooting well, we're a completely different team," said Collins. "Luke had a big second half even with three defenders on him. We've talked long and hard about what it takes to win in this league, and the guys have made a commitment to get their agendas out of the way and buy into what we are trying to do, and we're seeing that payoff."
The Sea Lions were just 2-for-17 from beyond the arc and didn't hit their first one until there were six minutes left. Wil Bush brought the Sea Lions within 54-48, but Jerome Lowe answered with his lone points on a 10-foot jumper on the ensuing possession to give the Lancers a 56-48 lead.
Aleksander Milovic made two free throws with 3:03 left to push the margin to 60-52 when Bush's second trey made it 60-55 with 2:42 left. Robbie McDaniel converted a lay-up to make it 60-57 with 1:35 remaining.
The Lancers committed 20 turnovers but also collected 12 steals. Though they were outscored in the paint, 40-20, they GSAC's top rebounding team out-rebounded the Sea Lions, 35-33.
It is the sixth time this year the Lancers have held a team under 60 points.