THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – A sloppy game inside the Gilbert Arena saw 40 combined turnovers but it was the host Cal Lutheran Kingsmen who got the upper hand in scoring tonight, erasing a seven-point halftime deficit to earn a 53-51 victory over Occidental in Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play.
CLU raced out to a 7-0 lead and held the Tigers off the board for the first six minutes of the opening half, but it was the Black and Orange who would turn the deficit into a lead after the first 20 minutes of action. At the 9:49 mark Sam Stapleton started a 15-2 Occidental run to close out the first frame. A Ryan Chong three-pointer gave the Tigers their first advantage of the night, a lead they would increase to seven, 21-14, at the intermission.
Cal Lutheran returned from the locker rooms with a vengeance, scoring the first five points of the second stanza. Corey Quintana started it off with a three-pointer right out of the gate before the teams were locked in a back-and-forth battle for the next 10 minutes.
Leading by just a point, 32-31, senior Jayvaughn Nettles scored on a fast break in the paint and followed with a three-pointer on the ensuing Kingsmen possession to give CLU a 37-31 advantage. Cal Lutheran would increase the lead to as many as nine points, 44-35, as Quintana converted an and-one with 6:45 remaining in regulation.
Occidental clawed back within one at 51-50 on a Juwan Rice basket, but that was as close as the Tigers would get despite a last second three-point attempt, by the Tigers leading scorer Kris Montoya, that hit the rim twice before bouncing back into play with a second remaining. CLU came up with a huge stop just before that shot was taken by Montoya as Collin Knudsen came away with his fifth steal of the game under the Occidental basket with seven seconds to play.
Montoya, who is averaging more than 18 points per game was limited to just two, which is a credit to the defensive effort tonight by the Kingsmen.
“Our main focus tonight was to shut down their top three guards in Montoya, Chong and [Eric] Leider,” Nettles said after the game. “I had the responsibility of guarding Montoya and I did not want him or any of his other guards to have a big game here at CLU. Holding him to just two points this game is a big accomplishment for us as a team,” he went on, “And it shows us that when we put our minds to it, we are as good as anyone in this league defensively.”
The Cal Lutheran defense limited that trio to 15 points and held the Tigers to a 37.3 shooting percentage and just a 27.3 performance from three-point range. Rice scored a game-high 18 points with eight coming from the free-throw line in as many opportunities.
On the offensive end of the hardwood tonight the Kingsmen stepped up, shooting 50 percent with a 60 percent clip from long range. Quintana paced CLU with 17 points on 7-for-11 shooting. He was joined in double figures by Dan Wade, who earned his first SCIAC start tonight, with 12 and Nettles with 11. Michael Palmer handed out a game-high four assists, two less than the entire Oxy team.
Occidental came down with 10 more rebounds (34) than Cal Lutheran, and had 13 on the offensive end. Ty Cobb led all players with 10, five at each end. Quintana and Jeremy Sulker-Hall each grabbed five for CLU and Quintana was responsible for two of the four offensive boards tonight. The freshman also added two blocks, and two assists in the win. Knudsen had five steals, two assists and three rebounds as he also earned his way into the starting line-up tonight.
Cal Lutheran (6-7, 2-2 SCIAC) will travel to Whittier on Wednesday, Jan. 9 to play the Poets at 7:30 p.m.