Santa Barbara, CA- Hope International proved why they are the number one defensive team in the NAIA by holding the Warriors to just 16 points in the second half of a 59-50 win over Westmont on Saturday. Senior Jeremy Kilgore and Junior Austin Sanford topped HIU with 11 points each.
The Warriors (15-9, 4-6 GSAC) scored first about a minute into the contest.
Junior Carlton Hayes answered with a long two point jumper to tie the score. Seconds later, Hayes grabbed a defensive rebound and threw a long outlet pass to Kilgore who found Sanford for a dunk to move HIU ahead 4-2.
After a made Westmont free throw, the teams exchanged four baskets on four total shots with each basket giving their respective teams the lead on the scoreboard. Sophomore Garrett Neilan and Tuff Barnes accounted for the two baskets for the Royals (16-9, 4-6 GSAC).
Junior Matt Green hit a three pointer combined with a Kilgore jumper move HIU up to a six point advantage at 13-7.
Over the next seven and a half minutes, Westmont produced a 12 point swing in the score and twice grabbed as large as six point edge.
The Royals responded with a 11-2 run keyed by four points from Senior Regan Andersen and a three pointer from Junior James Bailey to take the lead right back.
Westmont turned the tables on Hope International one more time before the break by outscoring them 8-3 to take a 34-32 lead into the locker rooms.
In the first half, both teams shot exactly the same from the field 14-27 (51.9%). The Royals made one more three pointer but the Warriors hit three more shots from the free throw line. Daniel Carlin came off the Westmont bench to score a half high 11 points. Kilgore was the top Royal with eight points.
The teams combined for just eight turnovers in the first 20 minutes.
After the break, the Royals turned up their defensive intensity another notch as they held Westmont scoreless for the first five minutes of the second half. That was a sign of things to come.
Meanwhile, Sanford came to life as he dropped in six points of an 8-2 HIU run to open the second half.
The Royals eventually increased their lead to 11 points as they maintained the top side of the scoreboard for the remainder of the contest.
With Kilgore and Sanford both concluding their night with 11 points, Green was the other Royal to reach double figures as he ended up with 10 points. Odd fact- the top Westmont scorers finished with the same point total as the HIU top three- 11 points for Carlin and Jason Ritchey and 10 points for C.J. Miller.
After allowing the Warriors to shoot at a near 52% in the first half, the Royals held them to 29.2% shooting while also forcing 12 turnovers in the final 20 minutes. Both teams made 21 shots from the field including two three pointers each for the game. The difference on the scoreboard came from the free throw line as HIU hit 15-21 freebies with Westmont converting six of nine opportunities.
Head Coach Bill Czech raved about the defense of his Royals with this statement, "I am just really happy with the effort on the defensive end. The guys are communicating well and trusting each other on the defensive end. Jeremy was phenomenal defensively. Austin and Carlton were really steady on defense as well. They allowed us to win with their will and determination. We are really trying to compete and took another step toward the team improving."
Czech added, "Regan came in with Tuff in a critical point and gave really good effort and energy. Regan ran the floor really well and was super active. James was poised and steady and hit a huge three. Raphael Banal only played two minutes but took a huge charge. We look forward to coming home and playing our final two regular season home games next week."
On Tuesday, the Royals will play host to Biola in the Darling Pavilion at 7:30 pm. Westmont will travel to Santa Clarita to take on The Master's at 7:30 pm.