The men’s basketball team opened its regular season with an 88-63 home victory Nov. 15 over the La Sierra University Golden Eagles in a game that Chapman dominated throughout, despite occasional defensive lapses.
On the heels of a Southern California Intercollegiate Athletics Conference (SCIAC) victory last season, the team played consistently Tuesday night, said assistant coach Dan Krikorian, who credited the team for opening the season on a positive note.
“It’s a really good first win with a lot of positives,” Krikorian said. “Our veteran guys that we expect to play well night-in, night-out had a good first showing, and it’s good for us to get some of our new guys’ feet wet.”
Junior guard Tyler Green scored 21 points, while junior forward James Taylor added another 18 in a game that the Panthers led from start to finish. Junior guard Rob Nelsen also gathered a team-high nine rebounds.
“It’s my job to knock (three-pointers) down,” Green said. “That’s my role on this team and that’s just what I have to do – take advantage of the opportunities my teammates give me.”
Krikorian said the team can count on Green to consistently make baskets.
“(Green’s role is) to do exactly what he did tonight,” Krikorian said. “When he has his feet set and he’s open, we all think it’s going in. We’re excited about all the facets of his game, whether it be defensively, handling the ball … He’s really becoming a complete player for us, so we’re excited.”
La Sierra (0-5) began gaining some momentum back after falling behind 7-2 in the opening three minutes, but confusion over a technical foul given to the Golden Eagles’ bench over a misnumbered La Sierra player gave the Panthers a chance to regroup and pull away to a 45-27 halftime lead. Sophomore forward Kyle Hamilton and junior guard Eduardo Gomez del Casal Rodriguez led the Golden Eagles with 12 points each.
“We played a solid game, but we let them score what, 63 points?” Taylor said. “For a team like (La Sierra) that likes to run up and down the court, we gotta be able to stop them in transition and play a little bit better defense. When it comes to playing the better teams, you can’t let (defensive responsibilities) slide.”
Taylor is confident in the team’s ability to improve its defensive focus.
“Green had a monster game, 21 (points), killing it from deep,” Taylor said. “We’re just happy with 1-0. We have two games to prepare for San Diego Christian (College). We just have to keep getting better on the defensive end, and our offense will take care of us.”
La Sierra was able to find some success in the paint, outscoring the Panthers 12-2 from close range. But Chapman sophomore guard Reed Nakakihara’s 16 points combined with another 12 points from Nelsen put the game out of reach for the Golden Eagles, whose winless streak to start their season now stands at five games.
The Panthers were without standout sophomore guard Cam Haslam – who led the SCIAC in scoring as a freshman last year – due to what Krikorian said was a minor foot injury.
“(Haslam’s) going to be good to go pretty soon here,” Krikorian said. “We’re just being cautious with him.”
Krikorian praised his side’s ability to follow tactics well, despite it still being early in the season.
“We have a lot of returners that are really good leaders, so the first month of practice, we’ve been drilling in the discipline of how we want to play and the right way for us to play,” Krikorian said. “Hopefully, we look even more organized in another month. We’re a long, long way from where we know we can be as a team. Defensively, we’re on our way.”
The Panthers will face the San Diego Christian College at home on Saturday at 7 p.m. in another non-conference matchup.
“It’s the process,” Green said. “It’s the first few games. Those are the tough ones to get all of the jitters out. Then we just gotta move forward, get closer as a team and just keeping working hard, because that’s kind of what we’re about here.”