Within a matter of minutes, it was evident that because Point Loma Nazarene possessed neither great shooting ability, inside or outside, or a stifling defense, Chapman College surely would have little trouble winning on Saturday night.
Guess again. The Panthers, despite taking a nine-point halftime lead, let the Crusaders make a game of it before finally putting it away at the free-throw line, winning, 66-56, at Hutton Sports Center in Orange in front of 400.
Though Point Loma's shot selection was questionable at best, it seemed almost to stay in the game by lulling Chapman to sleep at the beginning of the second half.
Fortunately for Chapman, someone sounded the wake-up call.
"I was trying to get them fired up," said Coach Kevin Wilson, who was hoarse from shouting so much and so loudly.
Wilson needed to be vocal, for, most of the game, it seemed as though Kelly Huston was the only player who really regarded Point Loma as a serious threat.
Huston, once again, led the Panthers with 27 points and 13 rebounds. He was one point short of equaling his season high, which came against Southern Utah State in the first round of Chapman's Thanksgiving tournament. The only other Chapman player in double figures was David Roth, who had 14 points. Steve Riddle led Point Loma (3-5) with 21.
"I thought last year's team was a lot more physical than this year's team," said Point Loma Coach Ben Foster, whose team lost to Chapman by 24 points last season. "They blew us out. We weren't very big and our best guard got hurt in the first few minutes. . . . This time, Huston really did hurt us tonight.
Wilson was willing to go a step further.
"There's no question, in my mind, that the guy is the best player in the league," he said. "I've seen every team in this league, and I wouldn't trade him for anyone else, which I couldn't have said last year."
Another thing the Panthers couldn't have said last year was that they had a winning record after six games. After six games last season, the Panthers were 3-3. This year, Chapman is 4-2, the best start in the four seasons Wilson has coached the Panthers.
Still, looking at Saturday night's game, Wilson realized the effort wasn't anything special, rather, it was just enough to get by.
"We're like an eight-cylinder car and we're running on 3 1/2 right now," he said. "If we ever get everybody playing together, we'll be all right."