Defending NAIA national men's basketball champion Texas Wesleyan is thanking its lucky stars that transfer Juwan Jones is now eligible.
Playing in just his second game for the Rams, Jones followed up his season-opening 35-point performance with 24 here Thursday afternoon against Central Christian College, 19 of those in the second half to help Wesleyan erase an 8-point deficit for an 81-79 victory at Alexander Arena.
Along with 15 points from former LSU Tiger Branden Jenkins — who averaged 8 points at the NCAA Division I level last year — the Rams fended off every rush by the Tigers.
Central played a terrific first half, leading 45-40, and then Paul Ard II made a 3-pointer to start the second half to push the lead to 48-40.
Midway through the second half, though, the Rams went on a 9-2 rip that swung the game in their favor. Central pulled as close as one on a couple of occasions in the last 5 minutes, but it couldn’t contain Jones, who scored 16 of his points in the final 11 minutes.
Central coach Tony Romero couldn’t have asked for any more from his team, except for its shooting in the second half.
“Our guys gave great effort,” said Romero, whose team is now 1-4 in the Sooner Athletic Conference and 7-5 overall. “Certainly you'd think in one of these close games it’s going to go our way. I know we got the Bacone one (winning on a last-second shot), but we’re not in this to play teams tough. We’re trying to get wins.”
Texas Wesleyan, despite a team loaded with great size and quickness, is only 7-6 overall in defense of its national title and 2-3 in the SAC. But with the addition of Jones, who is incredibly difficult to guard because of his ability to get to the basket (10 of 13 free throws), the Rams could start making their way up the standings.
Cameron Martin scored 16 points and dealt out 8 assists to lead a balanced Central offense. TJ Williams scored 15 off the bench, Jubri Osagie added 14, Ard II chipped in with 13 and LaDarius Lenard scored all 11 of his points in the first half.
The Rams also were balanced after Jones and Jenkins. Jeremy Crane tallied 13, 6-9 Curtiss Anderson had 12 (along with 17 rebounds) and Rob Thomas scored 11.
The difference in the game was the foul line, as the Rams were 23 of 29 compared to 18 of 22 for the Tigers.
Central has no bargain here Saturday as Southwestern Assemblies of God comes to town.
Central (79) — Warren 4, Osagie 14, Martin 16, Lenard 11, Ard II 13, Aranda 2, Williams 15, Kuminga 4.
Texas Wesleyan (81) — Anderson 12, Crane 13, Jenkins 15, Thomas 11, Brazeal 6, Jones 24.
• TEXAS WESLEYAN WOMEN 71, CENTRAL 59 — One quarter.
That was the difference in the women’s game as the Rams outscored the Tigers 27-13 in the second quarter, with Central 2 points better in the other three quarters combined.
The Tigers shot only 30 percent from the field and 50 percent from the line, though they did limit the Rams to just 40 percent from the field.
Ridglea Hearne had a solid game for the Tigers with 17 points and 9 rebounds to just miss a double-double. Havanna Yannello tallied 14. Evie Whorley led the Rams with 13.
The loss dropped the Tigers to 0-5 in the SAC and 1-12 overall. They are home Saturday to take on Southwestern Assemblies of God.
Central (59) — Hearne 17, Banks 9, Yannello 14, Golden 6, Forsberg 6, Cooke 4, Anderson 3.
Texas Wesleyan (71) — Fuller 8, Sicurella 6, Whorley 13, Burns 6, Gleason 7, Davis 6, Louallen 11, Sanchez 7, Benjamin 2, McClure 5.