The BJU Bruins have defended home court for the last time in their inaugural season. With well over 2,000 fans in attendance on Saturday evening, Feb. 16, coach Neal Ring took a moment to thank seniors Josh Clater, Jordan Corriveau and Craig Richards for their contributions to the young program and for the roles they each played in laying the foundation for Bruins basketball.
The game pitted the Bruins against the Crusaders of Tennessee Temple University, who had narrowly defeated the Bruins by five points in the two teams’ first matchup a month ago in Chattanooga.
Both teams were playing their second game in as many nights, with the Crusaders coming off back-to-back wins against Oakwood University and Victory University, and BJU following a win against Appalachian Bible College on Feb. 12 and a hard-fought loss to Piedmont International University on Friday, Feb. 15.
The Bruins started the game with a free throw apiece for sophomore guard Darnel Antoine and senior forward Jordan Corriveau. They then went ahead by two buckets with a move on a low block from senior forward Josh Clater. Tennessee Temple caught momentum after a steal that led to a fast-break layup and quickly jumped ahead 11-6 by out-hustling the Bruins on the offensive glass and knocking down 3-pointers.
Freshman guard Ray Holden Jr. stopped the damage with a layup, then brought the Bruins within three points on a strong baseline reverse. Clater followed with a towering move over the hands of 6’8″ Crusader forward Rashaud Bell, laying the ball in above the rim to cut the lead to 11-10. Junior point guard Zach Mercado answered the next Crusader score with a 3-pointer to tie the game at 13 with eight minutes remaining in the half. But then Temple sophomore guard Weedlens Beauvil hit from behind the arch to take back the lead.
Bruins junior guard Evan Brondyke and Mercado each contributed another three, and Antoine scored on a reverse layup to keep the score manageable. But the Bruins couldn’t find an answer for Bell in the post as he continued to rack up offensive rebounds and hit free throws.
The second half started with the Bruins down 33-22, but Holden forced his way to the rim and scored, then drew a foul on the next possession. Holden injured his knee on the play, but Clater sank his free throws to move the Bruins closer. Another three by Mercado and Darnel Antoine’s second and-one play of the night moved BJU to within four points with 12 minutes left to play.
However, the Bruins’ comeback stalled as they continued to struggle with finding an answer for Bell’s post play — he scored 14 of his 22 points in the second half. BJU kept fighting for the last five minutes, led by the passionate play of Clater and the explosive offense of Antoine, who had his second big game against Tennessee Temple this season. They brought the score to within five points several times, but were unable to get the stops needed down the stretch to even the score. Accompanied by chants of “Thank you, seniors,” coach Ring subbed out Clater to a final standing ovation, and the Bruins fell to the Crusaders 72-64.