The men’s basketball team fell just short of a win against the Life Pacific Warriors, 93-90, Saturday afternoon at Frantz Athletic Court.
The Warriors came out strong, winning the tip-off and scoring first behind senior forward Jordan Jones. Not long after, the Leopards got themselves on the board with a layup by junior forward Brandin Ziegler.
The Warriors continued to be aggressive and attack-minded on the court, scoring 11 points in the first two minutes of the game. They immediately took advantage of the open spots in the Leopards’ defense with senior forward Vince Fier scoring a layup, senior guard Rico Hopping scoring a three-pointer and Jones bringing in six points for the Warriors.
“We need to be playing better defense,” graduate student guard Brad Yasukochi said. “We didn’t do our job today of keeping them under their scoring averages.”
However, Yasukochi dropped in three layups and boosted the Leopards’ offensive momentum. Junior guard Darien Guyton contributed 10 points for the Leopards and junior guard Dahmaj Warren scored 11 points with three layups, two free throws and one three-pointer. The Leopards ended the first half with a lead, 40-35.
The Leopards held down the Warriors for the first couple minutes of the second half. It was not until the fastbreak and layup by freshman guard Zach Murphy that gave Life Pacific a wave of momentum. They eventually took the lead away from the Leopards with a three-pointer shot by Murphy to make the score 59-57.
The Leopards used a lot of quick passes to edge their way through the Warriors’ defense. They also relied on many free throws to close the scoring gap. Senior forward Kyler Harvey tied the game, 65-65, with a layup at the seven-minute mark.
“The main thing we’re focusing on this year is toughness,” Warren said.
The Leopards and Warriors tied again after a three-pointer by Hopping, making the score 81-81. This would be the last time the score was even.
After making all three of his free throws, Warren brought the Leopards on the edge of a win with the score at 91-90. Junior guard Austin Cook dropped in two more free throws to seal the deal in the last seconds of the game for Life Pacific with a final score of 93-90.
Warren was one of the top performers for the Leopards with 24 points scored, eight successful free throws, six rebounds and two steals. Guyton was another top performer with 16 points scored, four rebounds and two steals.
“There’s three things we need to be better at,” head coach Richard Reed said. “One is having a better start to our games, two is being consistent in terms of the different lineups we use and three is defending the rebound and taking care of the ball.”
“This is our fourth year playing them so today was a really big rivalry game for us,” Guyton said. “Us not beating them in previous years lit a spark under many of us and today. We came really close to beating them.”
Senior guard Saafir Moore said that the team plans to regroup and get their minds right before going into their next game.
“We’re a resilient team,” Moore said. “We have all the pieces to be a great team. We look forward to turning that corner and living up to the potential that I know we have.”
The Leopards traveled to Lancaster to face West Coast Baptist on Tuesday night and won convincingly, 125-97.
The Leopards are now 2-2 overall and 1-0 in Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play. They will host a rematch with West Coast Baptist at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Frantz Athletic Court.
“Losing the game doesn’t change our mission,” Reed said. “We have to continue to get better, it’s all about our approach.”
Taylor Fukunaga can be reached at email@example.com.