MOORE — OKLAHOMA CITY -- The No. 22-ranked Mid-America Christian University Evangels overcame a huge second half rally by the No. 17-ranked St. Gregory’s University Cavaliers to win 89-78 and move into second place in the Sooner Athletic Conference all by themselves Saturday evening (Jan. 25) inside the Gaulke Activity Center.
The victory improves the Evangels to 11-5 overall and 7-3 in the SAC and will almost certainly move them up in the NAIA Top 25 Coaches’ Poll, which is scheduled to be released Tuesday afternoon (Jan. 28).
In a wild back-and-forth second half, Reggie Davis nailed a three that finally gave the Evangels the lead for good at 74-73 and buckets by Semar Farris and Angelo Lewis followed that gave MACU some breathing room at 78-73 with 2:27 left.
Following a pair of free throws by Marty Wilkerson that made it a one-possession game, Farris got free inside to score again to push the lead back to five and the Evangels made 7-of-10 at the charity stripe down the stretch to put it away.
The Evangels appeared to be in control in the second half as they built the lead to 14 points on three occasions, with the last coming on an emphatic putback dunk by Josh Minner that made it 63-49 with 12:22 remaining.
But the 17th ranked Cavaliers had a lot of fight left in them as they roared back behind nine points from Tilford Thornton to outscore the Evangels 19-3 over the next seven minutes to take their first lead since the 7:45 mark of the first half.
A three by Jarius Wilson halted the run and put MACU back in front 69-68 with 5:18 remaining.
Thornton led the Cavaliers (15-4, 6-4 SAC) with 21 points, while Josiah Campbell had a double-double of 11 points and a game-high 13 boards. Trey Jones had 15 points and Wilkerson added 13.
The Evangels defense was stingy throughout, particularly in the second half. After the Cavaliers shot 41.4 percent (12-of-29) in the opening half, the Evangels limited them to only a 34.3 percent (12-of-35) clip in the second while forcing 21 turnovers overall.