Photo by: Tony Leon/ActionWestPhotography.com
WHITTIER, Calif. – The Whittier College Men's Basketball team continues to look strong following a 101-98 victory over Cal Lutheran University Wednesday night inside of the Graham Athletic Center.
Once again it was a raucous crowd as the Poet Pit was rockin' making it tough for the Kingsmen all night. Whittier extends their winning streak to three games and improve to 8-13, 5-7 SCIAC and still sit in 5th place in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) Standings.
Following a game-winner from Louis Kurihara (Culver City, Calif.) from last game, which came against Redlands on a buzzer-beater, the Purple & Gold carried the momentum onto Dave Jacobs Court for their second straight home game.
"Right now the team is playing with confidence, were shooting the ball better, and our offense and pace has picked up, which is our style of play," explained Head Coach Mark Jensen. "The players are working really hard and it has been fun to watch. The Poet Pit and playing in front of our home crowd has also been a huge benefit and they have shown why our fans are the best in SCIAC."
Four Poets recorded double digit scoring efforts led by Kurihara once again who poured in 23 points on 9-of-13 shooting, going 5-of-8 from deep. He also added four assists and three steals. Conner Longmire (Tarzana, Calif.) matched him stride for stride adding 22 points off the bench, in his breakout game of the year. He was 8-for-10 from the field, 4-for-5 from deep with five boards and a pair of assists.
Eric Davis (Ventura, Calif.) ran the point and registered 18 points with four rebounds, two assists, a steal and three blocks, while Victor Nwaba (Los Angeles, Calif.) chipped in with 12 points and seven rebounds.
Cal Lutheran led early 15-7 but that would be erased quickly as Whittier would come back with eight of their own to tie things up. Kurihara went back-to-back with three-pointers and Nwaba added two free-throws. The Kingsmen matched the Poets though adding their own run this time of 10 straight that moved the deficit to double figures but again WC chipped away. This time storming back to go in front 32-31, capped off with a Reggie Dixon (Oxnard, Calif.) triple. 5:10 remained in the half and the Poets capitalized on the time with Longmire and Kurihara adding three-pointers during a 20-9 run giving WC a 52-42 lead at the break.
Whittier held their advantage in the second half over the first ten minutes but it was given up quickly after that as CLU got back into the game, eventually taking a lead at 79-78 with 8:12 remaining. The score then went back and forth from there and it came down to the final minute. Palmer Chaplin knocked down a three-pointer for CLU that tied things up at 95-95 with 1:19 to play. Nwaba then came down and added a baseline jumper that put WC back on top. After a block from Davis on the other end and a strong defensive possession by the Purple & Gold, Kurihara then came down and put up a step back jumper from the elbow that moved the margin to four.
But with :11 seconds remaining, Austin Cole came up big for CLU draining a deep three that cut the deficit to one. A quick foul would send Longmire to the line for a one and one. He would drain both to move the deficit to three and that would prove enough for the win as CLU would have to heave up a full court shot as time expired.
Whittier had a game in all categories shooting 52% from the field, 52% from behind the arc and 72% from the charity stripe. They outrebounded the Kingsmen 40-37 had 14 second chance points and outscored the CLU bench 36-18.
"Moving forward, the guys need to take care of the basketball. Turning the ball over, mental mistakes and giving the opposing team extra possessions is not going to get it done. Defensively we have to be sharper," Jensen explained. "If we can improve in those areas then we can start extending leads and maintain them."
Whittier looks to extend their streak to four games as they welcome in La Verne this Saturday, February 3 during PAC the GAC. Tip-off is set for 5:00pm.