THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – The comfort of home was what the Kingsmen needed. After a couple of tough games on the road over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, the Cal Lutheran men’s basketball team not only returned home to the Gilbert Arena, but returned to their winning ways as well with a 71-59 victory over Pacifica.
“Getting losses out early is a good thing,” Jeremy Sulker-Hall went on, “We know what it feels like and allows us to work on areas we need to improve before we get into league play.
On a night that many of the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) teams opened conference play, Cal Lutheran had one more tune-up opportunity and they took advantage.
Though the Kingsmen were able to refine the strategy and plays they had been working on since the season began, they were also able to integrate some new schemes as SCIAC action looms.
“Our press break worked pretty well the whole game and the mental lapses were few,” Andrew Atakpo said after the game.
After a slow start on both sides of the court, Atakpoknotted the teams at 8-8 at the 12:03 mark and the Kingsmen would never trail for the remaining 28 minutes. Guy Lynott hit a pair of free-throws at 10:29 and after Pacifica pulled the score back to a pair, Martin Flowers sparked a 19-2 run with a layup, opening an 18-point, 34-16 lead.
Pacifica would score the final seven points of the half, but CLU held a comfortable 34-23 lead at the break.
Lynott had 10 first-half rebounds.
In the second half, the Gladiators would not go away quietly, making it a ballgame, getting within two with both 4:08 and 3:21 remaining in regulation. A fast break layup from Flowers and two more free-throws from Atakpo shifted the momentum back to the home team. With 19 seconds to play Jayvaughn Nettles scored in the paint and was fouled. Although he was unable to convert the free chance, Flowers was there to grab one of the 20 offensive rebounds for CLU on the night. Jeremy Sulker-Hall was fouled and he put in one of the two. Steven Davis pushed the lead to 10 moments later when he went 2-for-2 at the line and Nettles sealed the deal with a fast-break layup off a Dan Wade steal in the final seconds.
CLU forced 24 Pacifica turnovers in the game as Davis, Flowers and Nettles each came up with three steals. Sulker-Hall recorded a pair of blocks.
Cal Lutheran was also tough on the glass tonight, pulling down 45 rebounds to Pacifica’s 27. Lynott tied Flowers for the game-high of 10 with three and four offensive, respectively. Sulker-Hall had six with five on the offensive end of the court and Nettles finished with five total. Atakpo had four, tallying three offensive.
Flowers led all players with 24 points, adding 10 boards for the double-double. Sulker-Hall finished with 15 points on 7-for-8 shooting from the floor and Nettles netted 10, handing out a game-high four assists.
When asked about the offense tonight, Atakpo said, “When we ran our offense it worked and we were able to put up some points. We also executed some new plays that will be key during conference play.”
The Kingsmen shot just39 percent from the floor, though they did hit 43.5 percent of their second half shots. An area where they struggled was at the charity stripe, going 21-for-33 (63.6 percent).
“We need to make free-throws,” Atakpo noted, “If we do, we win by a lot more.”
Hopefully the Kingsmen will have their shots on target this weekend as they open conference play.
Cal Lutheran (2-3) hosts Caltech on Saturday, Dec. 1 as part of a women’s basketball and men’s basketball double header. The women tip-off at 5:00 p.m. in Gilbert Arena followed by the Kingsmen and Beavers at 7:00 p.m.