Dropping back-to-back road games last week might have killed Lubbock Christian University’s chances of winning the Heartland Conference men’s basketball title.
But the Chaparrals have four consecutive home games to end the regular season, leaving the door open for them to still make one more push.
In the first of those four, LCU point guard Marcus Arrington made two free throws with 19.6 seconds left Thursday night and the Chaparrals turned back Newman 80-76 after letting double-digit leads melt away in both halves.
“Good win for us and much needed,” Chaps coach Todd Duncan said.
The Chaps are 21-1 in their last 22 Heartland Conference home games. They have games remaining Saturday against Oklahoma Panhandle State and next week against Oklahoma Christian and St. Edward’s, all teams below them in the standings. LCU (15-10, 9-6) is only two games behind league-leading Rogers State (19-7, 12-4) in the loss column but has four teams to hurdle.
“It’s really important,” Arrington said. “We’ve got three home games down the stretch, so we can finish strong.”
Brennen Fowler, Tyler Rogers and Ridrell Holman scored 18, 15 and 14 points, respectively, for LCU, which beat Newman (8-16, 6-9) for the first time in their last four meetings. Taylor Schieber, a 6-foot-1 guard and the Heartland’s fifth-leading scorer, paced the Jets with 21 points, and 6-10 center Daniel Green added 14. The Chaps held conference scoring leader Daniel Owosu, a 6-1 guard who came in averaging 18.5 points, to nine.
The lead changed hands eight times between 7:52 and 1:54 left in the game. On the last of those, Arrington made a nifty bounce pass to Holman, whose bucket underneath put LCU ahead 77-76.
Newman had a chance to take the lead in a one-point game in the last 30 seconds, but Schieber slipped as he took a pass and wheeled toward the lane and was called for traveling with 21 seconds remaining. After the Jets quickly fouled, Arrington hit two free throws to extend it to 79-76, and on Newman’s next possession, Nwosu’s forced, off-balance 3 was well off the mark.
Holman grabbed the rebound and passed ahead to Rogers, who made one of two free throws for the final margin.
Arrington finished with eight points on 8-for-8 free-throw shooting, the last two with the game on the line.
“I’d made six before,” he said, “so just got to go up there and shoot ’em like no one’s in the gym, just like another day.”
Newman hasn’t been much of a contender in the Heartland Conference men’s race the last couple of years, but the Jets have been quite a nuisance for the Chaps. Newman beat LCU last season and again last month in Wichita, Kansas, and also knocked the Chaps out of last year’s Heartland Conference tournament with an upset in the 2-seed/7-seed game.
LCU had a hard time shaking the Jets again throughout the game Thursday.
The Chaps led 39-27 on a Holman 3-point goal at the 3:56 mark in the first half, but the Jets rallied back to 44-42 at halftime. Then LCU made a 10-0 run to lead 59-48 at 14:10 in the second half, but the Jets erased that, too.
“They shoot the lights out. They can score in a hurry,” Fowler said. “That’s what they want to do. I feel like we did a good job locking up when we needed to, though.”
Even after LCU allowed Newman to erase significant deficits twice, Duncan had few gripes with the Chaps’ defense and rebounding, given that the Jets have been a tough matchup.
“I thought our effort and energy were really good at the beginning of the game defensively,” Duncan said, “and I thought we sustained it for the most part. The X factor was all those loose balls that would end up in our hands and, by the time the commotion was over, it seemed to be in their hands and they were lining up a 3 or getting something easy at the basket.
“But I thought our big guys did a good job on their big player, Green, and I really thought even though Schieber and Nwosu still scored, I thought we made their looks really tough.
“And then I thought we got good production from everybody.”
LCU 80, NEWMAN 76
NEWMAN — DeYoung 1-2 0-0 3, Bryant 4-11 3-3 11, Green 5-10 4-4 14, Nwosu 3-9 2-2 9, Schieber 5-9 8-10 21, Wilson 4-8 3-3 13, Akao 1-2 0-0 3, Birnbaum 1-2 0-0 2, Meininger 0-1 0-0 0, Samuels 0-0 0-0 0. totals 24-54 20-22 76.
LCU — Holman 6-10 0-0 14, Rogers 6-10 1-2 15, Fowler 9-13 0-0 18, Schuster 2-6 2-5 6, Arrington 0-2 8-8 8, Gilbreath 3-7 0-0 6, Workman 3-7 0-0 6, Cardona 3-4 0-0 6, Kendley 0-1 1-2 1. Totals 32-61 12-17 80.
Halftime score: LCU 44, Newman 42. 3-point goals: Newman 8-21 (Schieber 3-5, Wilson 2-4, DeYoung 1-2, Akao 1-2, Nwosu 1-4), LCU 4-14 (Rogers 2-3, Holman 2-4, Arrington 0-1, Schuster 0-1, Workman 0-2, Gilbreath 0-3). Total fouls: Newman 19, LCU 16. Fouled out: none. Rebounds: Newman 31 (Green 6, Bryant 6), LCU 31 (Holman 5). Assists: Newman 8 (Akao 3), LCU 14 (Arrington 5). Steals: Newman 5 (Birnbaum 2), LCU 4 (Fowler, Rogers, Arrington, Schuster). Turnovers: Newman 15 (Schieber 4), LCU 9 (Arrington 3). Blocked shots: Newman 3 (Birnbaum 2), LCU 3 (Fowler 2). Records: Newman 8-16, 6-9; LCU 15-10, 9-6.