The house was jumping inside Chase Gymnasium all night long as Biola shot, blocked and dunked its way to an upset win over No. 23 Hope International on Tuesday evening.
The two squads were as closely matched as possible in nearly all phases of the game, except the Eagles shot better from the free throw line and had more chances, making a critical difference in their eventual 58-54 win.
It was not a guaranteed win throughout the night by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, for most of the first and second halves it seemed as if HIU had the game in the bag.
The first half was especially controlled by the Royals, as they outscored Biola 30-19 and shot higher than 50 percent from the field. It looked ugly going into halftime, but it could have been much, much uglier. Mike Kurtz kept the Royals' offense neutralized by picking up three blocks and two defensive rebounds in the first frame. He would end the game with five total big smacks.
"Mike's five blocks were a big factor, and he also helped change other shots throughout that made a difference," said Head Coach Dr. Dave Holmquist.
Without his three first frame blocks, the Eagles could have found themselves down by as much as 17 at the half.
The second twenty minutes were much different from the first as the Eagles, and the home crowd, kicked it into high gear.
"Some of our shot selection could have been better in the first half, but we turned all of that around in the second," said Holmquist. "The good effort was there again tonight. We had it last Saturday, and again tonight. I think we are a team that is improving."
The second half was all about improvements as Biola saw its shooting percentage rise by nearly 17 percent, and its point production more than double. Andre Murillo and Pierre Zook played a big role in the Eagles' comeback, combining for 19 points in the second half. That equaled Biola's total point output in the first.
A Cody Wittick layup with just over 10 minutes to play started Biola on their amazing end of the game run that saw them outscore the Royals 30-18 in order to turn an eight-point deficit into a four-point win.
Perhaps the biggest momentum play of the night occurred just one minute later when Conroy Lester drove to the rim and picked up a layup and a foul. He drained the free throw to bring Biola within two.
After that play the crowd was in it for the long haul and was relentlessly making massive amounts of noise whenever HIU had the ball in their possession.
Murillo was key down the Eagles' stretch run, scoring a three-pointer and using a huge fastbreak dunk to key the Eagles to an eight-point lead with a minute to play. The dunk gave Murillo his 15th of 16 points on the night and put him past 800 for his career as an Eagle.
Biola held on and improved its record to 13-8 (3-2 GSAC) and dropped its ranked opponent to 14-6 (2-3 GSAC).
"A lot of good things happened, it was a good team win," said Holmquist. "They are a very well-coached team, he has done an excellent job turning that program around. We are very glad to win the game against a very good team tonight."
The Eagles return to action on Saturday as they host No. 8 Concordia, looking for another big home upset. The game will be a "Biola Blackout" as all home fans are encouraged to wear all black.