PHOENIX, Ariz. – Arizona Christian University (16-6, 6-4 GSAC) outscored Vanguard University (15-10, 4-6 GSAC), 18-4, over the final 6:02 of the game enroute to an 82-71 men's basketball victory over Vanguard, which is tied for fifth place in the GSAC, on Homecoming Saturday, February 9, in Fultz Memorial Gym on the ACU campus. Arizona Christian had lost 74-70 to Vanguard in Costa Mesa, Calif., on Jan. 19, in an earlier meeting between the two schools.
In the first half, Arizona Christian put together a 17-2 run over a span of five minutes and led 30-12, with 10:35 left. Vanguard sliced the advantage to 32-29 with 5:13 left, and Arizona Christian led 39-35 at halftime. Junior guard Talib Uqdah (Detroit, Mich./Westview H.S. (Avondale, Ariz.)/Chandler-Gilbert CC) led all scorers in the first half with 10 points and 2 three-pointers.
The Firestorm built its lead to eight points, 45-37, in the first 1:19 of the second half, but Vanguard fought back to tie the game at 53 with 12:42 remaining. Arizona Christian went ahead by seven, 61-54 at the 9:25 mark, but the Lions came back again with eight consecutive points and went ahead, 62-61, on a jumper by guard Chris Gorman with 8:08 left. Arizona Christian reclaimed a two-point lead briefly, 64-62, but when Arizona Christian's senior guard A.J. Koch (Tucson, Ariz./Flowing Wells H.S.) picked up a foul on a three-point field goal try and a technical foul as well and fouled out at the 6:20 mark, Vanguard nailed all five free throws and led 67-64.
Arizona Christian's game-finishing 18-4 run over the last six minutes was sparked by junior forward Jordan Block (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif./Claremont H.S./Pasadena City College), who scored five points, and freshman starting forward Jackson Helms (Murrieta, Calif./Murrieta Valley H.S.), who scored four points including an offensive tip-in at 1:25 that gave the Firestorm a 78-70 lead. Block made two consecutive baskets that erased Vanguard's lead and put Arizona Christian up 70-67 with 4:43 left. The Firestorm made four of its six free throws in the final 42 seconds.
Five Arizona Christian players reached double figures in points, led by Block with 19 points, 11 in the second half. Block, Arizona Christian's leading scorer and rebounder (15.1 ppg and 6.6 rpg), went 7-for-9 from the field and also gathered nine rebounds, blocked a shot and stole the ball twice from the Lions. Uqdah finished with 15 points, 2 three-pointers, six rebounds and two assists, and junior guard Mason Jones (Huntington Beach, Calif./Ocean View H.S./Eastern Oregon Univ.) finished with 12 rebounds, 2 three-pointers, three rebounds, five assists and three steals in a key reserve role. Jones leads Arizona Christian with 84 assists and 40 steals this season.
Koch added 12 points on 5 of 7 shots and 2 three-pointers, and added two rebounds and two assists, and Helms contributed 10 points, nine rebounds and two steals. Junior guard Charles King (Houston, Tex./Stephen F. Austin H.S./Phoenix College) finished with six points, two rebounds and three assists, and freshman forward Mike Navar (Chino, Calif./Chino Hills H.S.) added three points, five rebounds and two steals. Junior forward Daniel Cornelius (Phoenix, Ariz./Phoenix Christian H.S.) added five points, one three-pointer and three rebounds.
Guard Preston Wynne led Vanguard with 24 points, 15 in the second half, 5 three-pointers and 5 of 5 free throws, and also had three assists and two steals. Gorman totaled 10 points, eight in the first half, 2 three-pointers and four rebounds, and forward Ennis Whatley, Jr. added nine points, five rebounds and three assists. Forward Selle Hann totaled eight points, one three-pointer, five rebounds and one steal.
The Firestorm went 30-for-55 from the field (.545) for the game and 7-for-20 from three-point range (.350) and 15-for-25 from the free throw line (.600), out-rebounded Vanguard by a wide 44-27 margin, committed 12 turnovers and stole the ball nine times. Vanguard, which committed 15 turnovers, made 23 of 58 shots (.397), 9 of 33 three-pointers (.273) and 16 of 26 free throws (.615) and stole the ball four times.
Arizona Christian, which is receiving votes for the NAIA's Top 25 Coaches' poll, is tied for second place in the GSAC race with 15th-ranked Hope International University (21-5, 6-4 GSAC) after Hope lost a close one 62-59 at home on Saturday to sixth-ranked Westmont (21-4, 9-1 GSAC).
Besides GSAC victories by Arizona Christian and sixth-ranked Westmont, Saturday night, Concordia University (16-8, 5-5 GSAC) moved into fourth place with a 92-77 win over San Diego Christian in CU Arena in Irvine, Calif., and Biola University (14-12, 4-6, GSAC) moved into a fifth-place tie with Vanguard after edging The Master's College (14-11, 3-7 GSAC), 54-53, in Santa Clarita, Calif.