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Men's Basketball - Tue, Feb. 14, 2017 - posted by Seth Preuss
Deondre Bryant shot 80% from downtown in a tough loss to ACU (Photo by Liza Rosales)
Deondre Bryant shot 80% from downtown in a tough loss to ACU (Photo by Liza Rosales)
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(RV)Hope International
Arizona Christian University

PHOENIX, AZ – Hope International traveled to face Arizona Christian in game two of the season series and fell on the road to the Firestorm in regulation. The Royals were able to lead for stretches while playing in hostile territory but could not pull out a win on the road without one of their leaders on the floor.

An early 10-3 lead for ACU after almost four minutes of play put the Royals in a hole to start, but they willed themselves back into the ball game and were able to whittle away at the lead throughout the opening half. ACU sill led by 10, 27-17, with 9:17 left before the half, but a strong push at the end with excellent play on both ends of the court allowed HIU to tie it at 37-37 with two minutes left. The Royals were able to take a 39-38 lead and the momentum with them into the halftime locker room after outscoring ACU 22-11 in the final nine minutes of the half.

HIU picked up where it had left off to start the second half, opening with a dunk by Daniel Young (JR/Las Vegas, NV) and two triples from Deondre Bryant (JR/Santa Ana, CA) for a quick 8-0 run and a 47-38 lead after the first three minutes. The Royals kept their foot on the gas and cruised out to a 53-40 lead in front of a stunned home crowd after a steal and a fast-break layup by Josh Smith (SR/National City, CA) put HIU in front by 13, but the Royals' offense fell silent after that.

After delivering what should have been a knockout punch, the Royals went the next five minutes without scoring and found themselves in front by just two, 51-53, after ACU rallied back. Kyle Hoag (SR/Mission Viejo, CA) gave HIU new life with a jumper and Bryant made a layup that pushed the lead to six, 57-51, but the Firestorm rallied again.

The Royals' offense went silent again, this time for four minutes, and the Firestorm were finally able to capitalize on the other end and regain the lead in front of their fans. A dogfight down the stretch turned into a free throw shooting contest for HIU.

Bryant and Hoag made all four shots for HIU to go in front 62-61 with 37 seconds remaining, but the Firestorm made a bucket on the other end and the Royals' last shot would not fall in, giving ACU a 63-62 win on its home court.

Bryant was excellent for HIU with 18 points on 50% shooting from the field and 80% (four-of-five) shooting from three-point range to go with six rebounds and an assist in 39 minutes on the floor. Smith flirted with a double-double with 11 points and eight rebounds, and Hoag anchored the middle for HIU with eight points and five boards.

"That one was tough – Deondre was great for us and Kyle played really well, but we got down big early," Coach Bill Czech said at the end of the game. "I thought it was great the way we were able to come back but we lost a little bit of our focus there late in the game – we'll get back in the gym and refocus now for Biola on Saturday."

The Royals' nine-game winning streak came to an end as they split the season series with ACU after failing to score four nine combined minutes in the second half of a tough road loss. HIU is now 21-6 overall with a 10-3 mark in the GSAC and returns home to host Biola on Saturday for Senior Night at 5:30 pm.

 
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