THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. - Teams from four different states converged on the hardwood at the Gilbert Arena for the first day of the 20th Annual Thrivent Financial Tournament hosted by Cal Lutheran. The day started with CLU taking down Fontbonne 82-60 before No. 9 Illinois Wesleyan cruised past Nazareth 84-41.
To start the tournament, the host and defending champion Kingsmen took a quick 4-0 lead and though the Fontbonne team fought to within a single possession at 9-6, the Violet and Gold went on a 7-0 run to sway the momentum and maintained it throughout. At the 6:10 mark of the opening frame Evan Johnson cut the Griffins' deficit to two at 21-19 on a jumper, but a quick three-pointer from Arik Smith sparked a 14-3 run, which included a pair of free-throws from Smith after being flagrantly fouled and a three-pointer from Dan Wade,to close out the half.
After the intermission things continued to fall in favor of the Kingsmen who never relinquished a double figure lead and opened a gap as large as 26 points with 4:00 to play in regulation.
Cal Lutheran (5-2) was led by Martin Flowers who came off the bench to share the game-high with 17 points on 7-for-12 shooting. He was joined in double digits by Smith, Coltrane Powdrill and Connor McGuire with 15, 12 and 10 apiece, respectively. Smith dished out a game-high seven assists and Guy Lynott tallied six. Defensively, CLU forced 18 turnovers and scored 28 points off the opportunities with McGuire leading all players by snagging four steals. Flowers finished with three and Curtis Opsahl had two in just three minutes of action. McGuire also led the squad with seven rebounds while Powdrill notched two blocks.
Fontbonne (2-5) placed a pair of players in double digits today. Darius Rucker matched Flowers with 17 points and Jared Greenlee chipped in with 15. Johnson handed out a team-leading three assists. Overall, Fontbonne pulled down more rebounds (37) than CLU (31) and grabbed 17 on the offensive end, converting those into 18 points. Rucker led the way with 13 total boards, 10 offensive, for a double-double. Greenlee added seven rebounds, a pair of steals and two blocks.
The pace of play in the second game was much faster and though there were only 10 total points scored over the first 4:30 of action, the designated home Illinois Wesleyan team score 10 unanswered points to take a 16-4 lead and seized the momentum in the nightcap at the Gilbert Arena. A hot three-point shooting team that went 9-for-13 in the first 20 minutes looked to Bryce Dolan for one at the 7:40 mark, which pushed the lead to 18 points before the Titans opened the differential to 28 going into the break.
After halftime, IWU continued to control the tempo and cruised to the win, earning a spot in the Tuesday night championship.
Illinois Wesleyan (8-2) spread out the scoring with six players scoring eight or more points. The team-lead was shared between Dolan and Joel Pennington with 10 apiece while Dylan Overstreet and Pat Sodemann each handed out four assists. Defensively, 11 different players had at least one rebound with a trio of Titans coming down with five.
Nazareth (2-4) looked to Maurice Mills to highlight the NC defense with four blocks and a team-leading six rebounds. Nick Nadeau led all players with 13 points.
The second and final day of the 2014 Thrivent Financial Tournament will feature Fontbonne and Nazareth (designated home team) in a 6:00 p.m. consolation game followed by the championships game between Illinois Wesleyan and Cal Lutheran at 8:00 p.m.
Tournament Central: 2014 Thrivent Financial
Box Score: CLU 82, FONT 60
Box Score: IWU 84, NC 41
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