A poor first half dug a hole too big for the La Verne’s men’s basketball team to crawl out of in their contest against Whittier, losing 90-73 Wednesday night at Frantz Athletic Court.
“To be honest, we didn’t do anything that we practiced,” head coach Richard Reed said. “We worked against their transition offense, which we knew was explosive, and there were certain ways that we wanted to guard their two-man game action, their pick and roll, that we just didn’t.”
The Leopards got off to a sloppy start with three turnovers in just over three minutes into the game. Although it was a close score at first at a 9-9 tie, turnovers paved the way for the Poets to go on a 10-point run until freshman guard Austin Nassar finally broke through for the Leopards with a layup down low.
The remainder of the first half was more of the same with the Leopards failing to create any momentum on offense. There were some well-executed plays like the strong drive to the basket for a layup by junior guard Dahmaj Warren to make it 24-13 Poets. There was also a give-and-go fastbreak layup by junior guard Darien Guyton with junior guard Logen Howard getting the assist to make it 39-21 Poets.
By halftime, it was 47-27 Poets and the Leopards were shooting a measly 8-for-30 from the field (26.7 FG%), 1-for-12 at the three-point line (8.3 3PT%) and had 15 turnovers. The only bright spot for the Leopards in the first half was graduate student guard Paul Antonis and his 13 points and six rebounds.
“We need to continue to play at our own pace and don’t let teams speed us up,” Guyton said.
The second half was completely different for the Leopards, who managed to outscore the Poets 46-43 in the half. Antonis picked up right where he left off and opened the scoring with a reverse layup.
Antonis stayed hot and scored La Verne’s first seven points of the second half, which led to a Whittier timeout. The points were coming in bunches for Antonis, but his defensive play was on full display as well, getting three blocks in the half. Antonis would finish the second half with 19 points to bring his total on the night to 32 points and 10 rebounds.
“My shot wasn’t falling in the first half so I just tried to attack a little bit more and get to the line, but just play with my teammates, and my teammates just gave me the ball where I needed it and I just give credit to all my teammates,” Antonis said.
Another Leopard who stepped up in the second half was Howard with all 11 of his points coming with less than nine minutes left in the game, including a nifty fake shot that deceived the Poet defender and let Howard cruise in closer for an easy jump shot to make it 65-52 Poets.
Despite Antonis and Howard leading the charge, it still was not enough to overcome the disappointing first half and the Leopards lost this one, 90-73.
“When our shots aren’t falling, I just think we need to be more aggressive toward the basket and try to get to the line and get our shots to get going,” Howard said.
The Leopards are now 6-14 overall and 3-9 in Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play. They will have a 5 p.m. game tomorrow at Redlands and then they face Claremont-Mudd-Scripps at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Claremont.
Jack Janes can be reached at email@example.com.