It was not pretty, as the eighth-ranked Cougars beat up the No. 12 Lions, 79-70, using their size to earn a road victory against Vanguard for the first time under four-year coach TJ Hardeman.
"They're so tough anywhere they play," Hardeman said of the Lions. "We're so big that we can afford to make some mistakes and make up for them by getting rebounds and tipping it in. When they made some mistakes, they didn't quite have that safety net that we did."
Vanguard (9-5, 5-3 in conference) cannot rely on much these days. The injuries to players Davis expected to count on have piled up.
Two have knee injuries, one has a swollen one, another has a broken foot, and one is dealing with back issues.
The problems look like they might end any chance Vanguard has at defending the regular-season conference title it shared with Azusa Pacific last season.
"We're going to be two games out [of first place], at least," said Davis before trying to stay optimistic, but it is difficult because health is not on the Lions' side with Paige Halberg and Taylor Spikes having to redshirt due to a knee and foot injury.
"It's just unbelievable. In 30 years I've coached, I've never been through injuries like this."
Even three players Davis sent out were not 100%.
Azusa Pacific (13-4, 5-2), last season's NAIA runner-up finisher, took advantage of the Lions' misfortune. The Cougars pounded the boards, getting second-chance opportunities whenever they practically wanted.
The result was a 47-23 rebounding edge to the Cougars. They actually grabbed one less offensive rebound than the Lions' rebounding total.