Lions finish strong

Men's Basketball

Vanguard closes on 16-4 run to rally past La Sierra, top last season's win total.

December 16, 2011|By Barry Faulkner

COSTA MESA — All second-year Vanguard University men's basketball coach Rhett Soliday wanted for Christmas was a little confidence.

The Lions' 82-78 nonconference victory over visiting La Sierra on Friday helped solidify that request, though there was more sobering news on the injury front for a program that is still trying to gain more substantial footing in the competitive Golden State Athletic Conference.

Vanguard (7-4) ended the game with a 16-4 run to turn away the Golden Eagles (0-10), who had five turnovers and just two field goals during the final 4:50 to miss an opportunity to apply a little salve to their own sickly self-esteem.


Vanguard senior guard Christopher Kupets made six straight foul shots in the final 40 seconds to preserve a win in a game that featured nine ties and four lead changes.

Senior guards Christopher Raybon and Chris Pynch both had 19 points to pace five Lions in double-figures, allowing Vanguard to surpass its victory total from the 2010-11 campaign in which it finished 6-22.

"The nature of this group so far this season has been that we've lacked a little urgency, until we're playing from behind," said Soliday, whose squad was 2-8 before Christmas last season. "We get down then all of a sudden, we go 'Oh, no.' The reality is, we're not good enough to play that way. Sometimes we like to think we are, but we're not. We've got to be solid for 40 minutes. If we want to be competitive in the GSAC, we're going to have to fix that."

Soliday pointed to free throws — VU made 20 of 26, while La Sierra netted 11 of 15 — and an impressive 18 assists to just 10 turnovers as the big reasons his team was able to prevail.

Senior forward Cameron Nettles (12 points), Kupets (11) and junior guard Taylor Kelly (10) added to a balanced scoring component that also included senior Billy Thompson (nine points and a team-high nine rebounds).

Nettles and Thompson combined for half of the Lions' 32 rebounds, but they were not enough to counter a big inside advantage for La Sierra.

The Golden Eagles had 42 rebounds and dominated with 44 points in the paint, to Vanguard's 26.

"Our top three bigs are out right now," said Soliday, who got news after the game that 6-foot-6 freshman Jordan Diandy broke a bone in his right-lower leg by falling awkwardly while being fouled on a shot in the opening moments against La Sierra.

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