Lauren Allison, Staff Writer
The Saints traveled to California over Thanksgiving break where they went 3-0. The first game against Cal State Monterey Bay on Nov. 22 ended in a 73-70 win for SMU. It was a tough battle with both teams struggling to hold the lead the entire game. Junior transfer Luke Chavez recorded 14 points and four assists, while Jordan Kitchen ended with 13 points and seven rebounds. Following was freshman Tavian Henderson who recorded 10 points and Matt Dahlen with nine points. As a team the Saints shot 51.7 percent from the field, 41.2 percent were beyond the arc and 44.4 percent from the free throw line. Two days later, the Saints turned around to play Academy of Art, which ended in a 77-67 victory. The game started out with a 17-0 run for the Saints. Chavez ended with an impressive career-high of 26 points, four rebounds and three steals. Ej Boyce finished with 13 points, Tavian Henderson added eight points, nine rebounds and five assists. Head coach, Alex Pribble commented on the successful week saying, “We’re very excited about the progress we’ve made so far. These guys really came together on the Thanksgiving road trip to California. They’re building a brotherhood, building trust, and that is paying off on the court. Everyone on the team is finding a way to contribute, finding a way to make their teammates better.”
SMU continued their winning streak against number seven nationally ranked Cal Baptist with a 93-88 victory over the Lancers. Five Saints ended with points in the double-digit including Jared Matthews (19), Dahlen (16), Chavez (17) and Kitchen (14). The team shot 54 percent from the floor, 55 percent beyond the arc and 63 percent at the free throw line. “Beating Cal Baptist will be one of the historical moments for this team this year. It was so much fun knowing what we are capable of and are going to continue to fight each game. We were jumping around and throwing water everywhere and were all thrilled to get that [win].” commented sophomore Cam Chatwin on the big win. After the successful week in California, the Saints were named Men’s Basketball GNAC Co-Team of the week. Along with this honor, Chavez was honored as GNAC Player of the Week. During the week, he averaged 19 points per game, 2.3 rebounds, and 3.3 assists while shooting 54.5 percent from the floor and 56.3 percent beyond the arc.
Following the 3-0 week in California, the Saints jumped up in the national poll rankings for Men’s basketball. Earning eight total votes, they jumped the highest in the National Association of Basketball Coached poll, putting them in 35th overall. The team also earned recognition in the Division II Conference Commissioners Association poll, receiving two votes and ranking 38th overall. Junior Robert Little commented on the ranking saying, “It’s great to have that in the back of our minds, but the main thing is to continue getting better each time we go out, and not letting stuff like national rankings cloud our preparation each game.” The team was able to celebrate the victories and honors briefly while preparing for their next match against Central Washington. The Saints traveled to the Wildcats home court on Nov. 30, where they walked away with yet another win ending with 80 points compared to their opponents 75. Chavez led SMU once again with a career high of 30 points. “The GNAC is very tough this year, and we will be in for a battle every single game. We really hope the Saints community, and our students in particular, will be at the home games to give us an edge,” according to Pribble.
The Saints played at Northwest Nazarene on Dec. 2 where the winning streak ended. The Nighthawks had a very successful shooting game, four NNU players were in the double-digits which ended the game for the Saints with a 67-92 loss.