Behind clutch shooting and key defensive stops, the University of La Verne men’s basketball team pulled out its first victory of the season in their home opener against Chapman 59-56 on Nov. 20.
The Leopards were led by two of their seniors, Drew Terry and Robert Hughes who combined to score 24 points and 11 rebounds in the win against the Panthers.
“It feels great but we still got a long way to go,” said junior guard Brendan Hallihan. “What got us the victory was our defense and a lot of guys stepped up off the bench for us.”
La Verne led most of the first half over the Panthers until the two minutes left before halftime.
Many defensive miscues and turnovers hurt ULV in the first half as Chapman took the lead heading into halftime, 32-29.
However the momentum of the game shifted back and forth at the start of the second half.
The Panthers inside scoring and rebounding were able to get them going offensively and led by as many six points after a lay-up and foul by Panther guard Dan Aguilar.
The Leopards responded with strong inside play of their own and were carried by Hughes, who had a strong two-handed dunk with five minutes left in the game.
ULV finally climbed back to tie the game at 53-53, after two free throws by sophomore guard Brian Mancilla.
Following the next Chapman possession, the Leopards set up their offense and found Terry open as he sunk a 15-footer to put them ahead, 57-55.
“The play was called for me and I knew if I got my guy in the air I would take it,” Terry said. “I knew the minute it left my hand that it was going in.”
After the crucial jumper, ULV was able to stop the next Panthers’ possession with strong defense but turned over the ball later after a steal by Chapman.
Still the Panthers were unable to capitalize as they failed to score and had to foul with seconds left in the game.
Terry then put the game out of reach with two free throws and secured the win for the Leopards.
“It was really exciting to get this win,” said junior guard Danny Vasquez. “Coming off being 0-2, it was a good band-aid to put on out there.”
The win also marks the first victory for new ULV head coach Richard Reed, who took over the team in August following the departure of former coach Gabe Duran.
Reed, an alumnus and former assistant coach, returns to La Verne after coaching stints at Cal State Sacramento, Northern Colorado and Cal Poly Pomona.
On Wednesday, the Leopards added their first road win of the season to their resume with a 68-64 victory over La Sierra.
La Verne was paced by the play of senior Juan Canas, who led all ULV players in scoring with 13, followed by Hughes and guard Matt Heyd with 10 points each.
ULV trailed again after halftime against the Golden Eagles but rallied back by outscoring La Sierra 37-24 in the second half.
With the two wins, the Leopards improve to 2-2 overall following tournament losses to Warner Pacific and Puget Sound earlier in the month.
Nevertheless with the theme of this year’s team being defense, the squad will continue to prepare for their upcoming game against Willamette today at home with tip-off at 7:30.
The team will then go on the road to play Chapman in a rematch on Dec. 5.
Galo Pesantes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.