PASADENA, Calif. – Andrew Atakpo had four second half blocks and Michael Palmer scored 13 points off the bench as CLU rallied from a 30-25 halftime deficit to defeat UC Santa Cruz 56-51 during the second day of the SCIAC Classic.
Despite falling behind early in the first half, Cal Lutheran battled back when Martin Flowers hit two free-throws that got Kingsmen to within two at 12-10 with 12:19 left to play. On the following possession, Collin Knudsen snagged a steal and converted a lay-up on the breakaway, tying the score at 12 all.
A minute later, Atakpo gave CLU their first lead of the game at 14-12 after hitting left-handed lay-up.
UC Santa Cruz would respond with three three-pointers in the final five minutes to reclaim the lead at 30-25 going into the locker room.
However, Coach Rider and his coaching staff were able to make a number of halftime adjustments, specifically on the defensive end, that helped hold UC Santa Cruz to just 19 percent from floor in the second half.
After playing sparingly in the first half, Atakpo started in the post for the second half and responded with four blocked shots and five defensive rebounds.
Atakpo also tied the game after hitting a pair of free-throws, knotting the game up at 47 a piece with a little over four minutes left in the game.
A minute later, Dan Wade would give CLU the lead for good after he converted both free-throws and put CLU up 49-47.
The Kingsmen would rely on their defense down the stretch as Knudsen switched to guarding UC Santa Cruz’s leading scorer Trent Reeves. With Knudsen guarding him, Reeves was held without a basket the final 13 minutes of the game and scored just eight points.
Cal Lutheran allowed only one basket the final five minutes as they held on for a hard-fought 56-51 victory.
Cal Lutheran was led offensively by Michael Palmer, who scored 13 of the 31 points that came from the non-starters. Wade scored 12, his second-straight game in double-figures and Jayvaughn Nettles chipped in with nine.
UC Santa Cruz was led by Jared Ponce’s 14 points. Austin Steadman was second on the team with 12.
With the win, Cal Lutheran improves to 4-6 while UC Santa Cruz drops to 3-9.
Cal Lutheran will now have the next two weeks off before returning the court Saturday December 29, when they take on Northland at 6:00 p.m. in Gilbert Arena.
Box Score: CLU 56 UCSC 51