Author: Jeremy Shapiro
The Occidental men’s basketball team faced a tough stretch of opponents to open the season. The Tigers narrowly lost their first game, 78-72, to Division I opponents Pepperdine on Nov. 5.
Head coach Brian Newhall was very pleased with the team’s performance. “We played a very strong game at Pepperdine against a quality Division I opponent,” said Newhall.
Assistant coach Anahit Aladzhanyan was also happy with how the team played in their first match. “Our team is committed to being solid on both ends of the floor. We did our best to make each possession count against Pepperdine,” he said.
The men followed up the exhibition loss with an 81-73 victory against American Sports University to open the season on Nov. 16. Forward Deshun McCoy (junior), who has earned All-SCIAC second team selections the past two years, dominated the stat sheet with 27 points, seven rebounds and four assists and was the lead offensive force for the Tigers. “Deshun is off to a great start this season. We moved him back to the power forward, and he is thriving in this position. He is an outstanding rebounder and one of our top inside and outside threats on offense,” said Newhall.
In addition to McCoy, Conrad Leibowitz (sophomore) provided the Tigers with a strong inside presence, leading the team with 10 rebounds to go along with 19 points in the victory.
The Tigers then played University of St. Thomas, the defending national champions, on Nov. 18, but came away with an 81-62 loss. The Tigers could not overcome St. Thomas’ staunch defense, as the saying holds true, defenses win championships.
Guards Jack Hanley (senior) and Sam Stapleton (junior) led the way for the Tigers offensively with 22 and 16 points, respectively. Leibowitz and McCoy combined for only 11 points. St. Thomas was able to clog the middle, limiting Leibowitz’s effectiveness under the net. McCoy was plagued by foul trouble and picked up his fifth foul with over fifteen minutes remaining in the contest.
Newhall made it clear that despite the team’s competitive play against challenging opponents, there are still things that they need to work on to improve daily.
“We are cleaning up a variety of things this week including cutting down on turnovers, boxing out, contesting all shots and adding to our offensive sets,” said Newhall.
He insisted that he does not want the team to falter down the stretch. There is a lot of basketball left to be played and the Tigers look to continue their recent success and build off of it.
“The team is working exceptionally hard and enjoying the process. Basketball is a long, long season. We want to play our best hoops in January and February,” he said.
The team can next be seen tomorrow when they travel to Pacifica College at 5 p.m.
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