Tigers fall to La Verne in close SCIAC game


The La Verne Leopards pinched a hard-fought 75-73 win against Occidental men’s basketball in last Thursday’s conference matchup.

Minutes before tipoff, Rush Gymnasium echoed with the rhythms of the Occidental Drum Line and the taunts and cheers of Occidental sports fans—most conspicuously football and soccer players—reviving the energy that waned in Rush Gym during winter break competition.

Going into the game with a conference record of 5-4, Occidental needed a win to break into the top-four in the conference standings and put themselves in position for a playoff spot.

Guard Juwan Rice (senior) set the swift pace of the game with a layup 20 seconds after tipoff. Occidental dominated the first two minutes of the game, until the Leopards pulled up a 9-8 lead with 16:58 left in the first half.

Eight minutes in, the teams were tied with 16 points. From then on, the scoreboard showed a constant back and forth—La Verne only secured a double-digit lead for all of 15 seconds the entire game.

“We expected it to be close—the last time we played them it was a two-point game,” Rice said. “But we also knew we could win this game.”

With seven minutes left in the first half, La Verne pulled out a 33-23 lead with a streak of five three-pointers within three minutes.

Guard Kory Hamane (junior) fought fire with fire, banking in a three at 6:40 that spurred the Tigers back into competition. The Leopards missed a three-point attempt that was followed up with Occidental guard Austin Hawk’s (sophomore) own three-pointer, closing the gap to 33-31.

La Verne committed their seventh team foul on Rice at 5:27, who tied up the game 33-33 with a successful one-and-one.

With their signature heckling, the Occidental crowd seemed to psych out La Verne, who only managed a free-throw percentage of 41.6 in the first half.

Guard Jay Miller (sophomore) put Occidental in the lead 37-36 with three minutes left in the half, but the Leopards held the Tigers off with their three-point finesse to end the half in the lead 46-41.

La Verne opened the second half strongly, almost securing another double digit lead, but Hamane turned the tables and kept Occidental one point away with two baskets after a crowd-pleasing dunk at 16:20 by Leopard guard Hakim Arnold. Rice brought Tiger fans to their feet with a layup assisted by Hawk that put the team in the lead 53-52.

Although only leading for less than 30 seconds, Occidental held a close deficit to La Verne for the remainder of the game.

In the last five minutes Occidental lost momentum, air-balling two three-point attempts within 23 seconds. But Rice racked up the points—18 by the end of the game—leading the Tigers in scoring. Forward Andrew Garrison (junior) rebounded the few shots Rice missed, finishing with five rebounds total.

With 10 seconds left in the game, Spencer Levy (junior) sunk a layup, cutting the score to 74-73. Two fouls later, the Leopards had another point on the Tigers. Rebounding La Verne’s missed free throw, Rice sprinted down court and instead of driving to the basket, attempted a three. In the last fraction of a second, the ball knicked the rim, was hastily tipped by forward Andrew Johnson (sophomore), and fell to the ground as the buzzer sounded.

“We needed to get some stops and get every rebound on the defense” Rice said. “We were struggling to score at the end but we still had a shot. It just didn’t go our way.”

Levy said that his team played well overall, but attributes the loss to failure to defend the three pointers and giving La Verne open looks. Both Levy and Rice stayed positive after the game.

“I think the last turnover that we had with a minute left hurt us a lot but, you know, it happens,” Rice said.

Rice said that despite a few costly individual mistakes, there was no animosity in the locker room post-game.

“We try to build the team up,” Rice said.

Levy agreed that dwelling on individual errors is unproductive to improving team play, and instead is looking forward to Occidental’s upcoming conference game against Chapman.

“We need to forget about it and move on and get ready to beat Chapman Saturday,” Levy said. “We have six more games to go and that’s what’s important.”



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