Reed Nakakihara scored a game-winning 3-pointer with a second left in the men’s basketball team’s wild 66-64 win at the University of Redlands on Thursday night.
“We practice late-game scenarios all the time in practice,” said Nakakihara, a sophomore guard. “We came down and (senior forward) James Griffin drove the lane and found me at the top. I caught it and had the confidence to knock it down.”
Junior guard Tyler Green led the Panthers with 15 points, while junior forward James Taylor and freshman forward Drew Todd had 12 and nine points, respectively. After losing five games in a row – which was the team’s longest losing streak since 2013 – the Panthers have come back to win their last two.
“I think we’re just starting to get some of the rhythm back that we were missing before,” Taylor said. “The ball is moving a lot better and our defense has made huge improvements. We’ve showed a lot of resilience after having that losing streak so I’m really proud of my guys.”
After going into halftime with a 31-22 lead, the Panthers felt the pressure in the second half as the Bulldogs’ offense began to find its rhythm. Redlands star sophomore guard Trevor Baker, who only had three points in the first half largely due to tight defending by Chapman junior guard Rob Nelsen, had a big second half with 18 points.
“They honestly just started making some really tough shots,” Taylor said. “Their best player, Baker, was big-time for them in that comeback. Rob Nelsen did an incredible job keeping him under control the entire game and making sure he had to really earn his points.”
At one point, the Panthers fell behind in the second half by seven as Redlands outscored them 42-35, but Chapman fought back, eventually clutching the win with Nakakihara’s late game-winner.
“In the second half when they were hitting shots, we knew we just had to keep pushing and stay focused,” Todd said. “Our defense came up big at the end and (Nakakihara) hit a great shot to give us the win.”
This was Chapman’s second matchup against Redlands this season, with the Panthers narrowly defeating the Bulldogs 70-69 in another close game Jan. 7.
Chapman (9-10, 4-6) now sits tied for fifth with the California Institute of Technology (5-14, 4-6) in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC), improving its position by two spots from where the team stood a week ago. The Panthers face off against the University of La Verne (12-7, 6-4) on Saturday at 4 p.m.
“I think we’ve gotten a little bit of our confidence back and that’s gonna help us as we move forward in the season,” Taylor said. “We feel really good playing La Verne. We know they’re a good team, but if we stay focused and continue playing the way we have been in these last couple games, we should be fine.”