PHOENIX, Ariz. – Arizona Christian University (18-7, 8-5 GSAC), which received votes for the Feb. 19 NAIA's Top 25 National Coaches' poll, clinched a home Golden State Athletics Conference first-round playoff game with a 67-61 GSAC men's basketball victory over Biola University (15-14, 5-8 GSAC), Tuesday, February 19, at ACU's Fultz Memorial Gymnasium.
The score was tied four times and the lead exchanged sides five times in the first half. Biola scored seven consecutive points in a span of just over two minutes and led 22-16 with 9:28 left before intermission, but ACU came back with a run of seven consecutive points and led 23-22 at the 7:30 mark. Biola closed the half with six consecutive points on a pair of three-pointers by reserve guard Cody Wittick and led 35-28 at halftime.
Junior guard Talib Uqdah (Detroit, Mich./Westview H.S. (Avondale, Ariz.)/Chandler-Gilbert CC) scored 13 points with 4 three-pointers, and junior guard Charles King (Houston, Tex./Stephen F. Austin H.S./Phoenix College) added eight points and 2 three-pointers in the first half for ACU, and 7-0 center Mike Kurtz led Biola with eight points and five rebounds, including two offensive rebound baskets, in the first half.
Biola built its lead to 11 points, 39-28, in the first minute of the second half, but ACU fought back with a 14-2 streak and took a 42-41 lead at the 13:16 mark. After taking a 45-43 lead with 9:02 left, ACU never trailed again and built its lead to eight points, 57-49, with 3:10 remaining. Biola sliced the lead to two points three times in the last 1:15, but twice ACU answered with baskets and once, the Firestorm answered with a pair of free throws by junior guard
Jordan Block (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif./Claremont H.S./Pasadena City College) with 16 seconds left. King punctuated the victory with a slam dunk as time expired.
King, who averages 14.8 points and leads ACU with 50 three-pointers this season, led ACU with 19 points with 5 three-pointers and grabbed three rebounds, and Uqdah, who averages 18 points with 25 three-pointers in six games, totaled 18 points with 5 three-pointers and added five rebounds and two steals. Block, ACU's leading scorer and rebounder this season (15.2 ppg and 6.7 rpg), finished with eight points and seven rebounds, and freshman forward Jackson Helms (Murrieta, Calif./Murrieta Valley H.S.) scored seven points, grabbed six rebounds and passed three assists. Junior guard Mason Jones (Huntington Beach, Calif./Ocean View H.S./Eastern Oregon Univ.) added four assists and two rebounds.
Senior guard A.J. Koch (Tucson, Ariz./Flowing Wells H.S.), playing in the last home regular-season game of his four-year career, contributed seven points, five rebounds and one steal and moved into eighth place in ACU basketball history with 1226 points in 106 games (11.57 ppg).
Kurtz led Biola with 14 points on 6 of 9 shots, and gathered eight rebounds, blocked five shots and stole the ball once. Forward Zack Zaragoza finished with 13 points, 3 three-pointers and three rebounds, and forward David Cline added nine points, 10 rebounds, three assists, one blocked shot and one steal. Guard Dakota Anderson scored nine points and hit one three-pointer, and reserve forward Kyle Bailey contributed six points, six rebounds and one block.
The Firestorm went 22-for-63 from the field (.349) for the game, and made 10 of its 31 three-point tries (.323) and 13-for-16 from the free throw line (.813), out-rebounded Biola, 42-39, committed 12 turnovers and stole the ball six times. Biola, which committed 12 turnovers, that ACU turned into 14 points, made 23 of 59 shots (.390), 7 of 22 three-pointers (.318) and 8 of 10 free throws (.800) and stole the ball just three times.
Arizona Christian, coached by Jeff Rutter, moved into a second-place tie with Hope International University (23-6, 8-5 GSAC), which lost 62-47 at home to San Diego Christian College (7-15, 4-9 GSAC). First-place Westmont College (23-6, 11-2 GSAC), the NAIA's number eight-ranked team, lost 93-66 at fourth-place Concordia University (17-10, 6-7 GSAC). The Master's College (16-12, 5-8 GSAC) moved into a fifth-place tie with Vanguard University (16-12, 5-8 GSAC) when it defeated Vanguard, 75-67.
The top four teams in the GSAC standings host quarterfinal games against the lower four seeds, Thursday, Feb. 28 – first-place Westmont, the only team to have clinched sole possession of its place in the standings, takes on the number eight seed; the number two seed hosts the number seven seed; the number three team takes on the number six seed; and the fourth-place team hosts the number five seed.