Golden Eagles Land Highest Ranking in Program History
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (January 22, 2013) - Despite ending the fall semester with back-to-back losses, including a 77-68 setback to then-No. 5 Westmont (Calif.), the Golden Eagles have rattled off six-consecutive Sooner Athletic Conference (SAC) victories, skyrocketing them to its highest ranking in program history.
John Brown (17-3) now sits tied for the No. 4 slot in the nation with Lewis-Clark State (Idaho) in the fifth edition of the NAIA National Coaches' Poll. The two programs are moving in opposite directions, however, as starting the season 18-0, the Warriors have dropped two of their last three games, with both losses against unranked foes. The Golden Eagles sit atop the conference standings at a perfect 6-0 and have outscored its opponent by an average of just under seven points per game, 71.50-64.67.
"The national ratings are very exciting for our program and our supporters," said head coach Clark Sheehy. "We also understand that we are not even half way through our conference schedule and we have a lot of room to improve as a team."
The Golden Eagles, conversely, have hit their stride at just the right time. The SAC is riddled annually with top-25 programs and the 2012-13 season is no different. After dropping both games in California over Christmas break, JBU has notched four wins over top-25 programs to open its conference slate.
Last week ranked at No. 10, John Brown's matchup with then-No. 5 Oklahoma Baptist was selected as the NAIA National Game of the Week. Sporting a 33-game home unbeaten streak, the Bison would undoubtedly feature JBU's most difficult task this season.
Although the Bison began the game on a 9-0 run, the Golden Eagles would keep the score within reach for the majority of the game until freshman forward D'Shon Taylor's leaping slam dunk tied the score at 67 with just over a minute remaining in the contest. Freshman guard Kofi Joseph's triple with 59 seconds left gave John Brown a three-point advantage, one it would not relinquish, as JBU held on 75-70. It was only the fourth loss in its last 89 games at Mabee Arena for Oklahoma Baptist.
Saturday's matchup featured unranked Mid-America Christian (Okla.) paying a visit to Bill George Arena. MACU, although not ranked, sat alone in second place in the conference standings, sporting a 3-1 SAC record, led by the second-leading scorer in the conference, Charlie Shorter.
Both teams battled hard in the first half, each grabbing small leads throughout the first 20 minutes. Sophomore forward Max Hopfgartner's monster jam gave the host squad a two-point lead at the intermission. The momentum would carry over into the second half as the Golden Eagles converted six of its next seven three-point opportunities, fueling a 23-4 run that the Evangels could not recover from as John Brown clinched the 76-58 victory.
The Golden Eagles began the 2012-13 campaign ranked No. 17 in the preseason poll, but a stunning non-conference loss to NAIA II Oklahoma Wesleyan on a buzzer-beating triple gave John Brown the unusual home-court loss, knocking JBU all the way down to the last slot in the rankings. After falling out of the rankings, a win over then-No.22 Oklahoma City bumped the Golden Eagles back into the 25th spot.
It was only then that John Brown surged 15 places to No. 10. After a 68-58 road win over then-No. 9 Science & Arts (Okla.), the Golden Eagles hung on to defeat then-No. 19 Rogers State (Okla.) in a 81-80 grudge match.
Finally after wins over OBU and Mid-America Christian, John Brown earns its first-ever top-5 ranking. The highest the Golden Eagles have even been ranked was when JBU enjoyed the No. 7 slot in the first coaches' poll of the 2003-04 season. John Brown has only been in the top-10 a mere five times in program history.
The squad will now make its most difficult road trip of the year as John Brown travels to west Texas to face Lubbock Christian (Texas) on Thursday, Jan. 24 before closing the week in Plainview, taking on Wayland Baptist on Saturday, Jan. 26.