The men’s basketball team ended a five-game losing streak with a 70-59 win over California Lutheran University on Saturday, Jan. 28, ending a tough stretch for the Panthers (8-10, 3-6) that had been their worst string of consecutive losses since a five-game winless streak in 2013.
“We really wanted to come out and make sure that we got some redemption tonight and that we played to the level that we were capable of playing,” said senior forward James Griffin.
The Panthers remain in seventh place in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC), even though the team was a championship favorite going into this season after winning the SCIAC last year.
The Panthers have been without star sophomore guard Cam Haslam since December. Haslam, who is on the mend after recently undergoing surgery on a season-ending injury, was last year’s D3Hoops.com National Rookie of the Year and SCIAC Athlete of the Year, as well as the Panthers’ top scorer. He averaged 18 points per game this season in the six games – only one in SCIAC play – he played in before getting hurt.
But the main issue for the Panthers this season has been defense. The Panthers have scored more points this season than SCIAC leaders Claremont-Mudd-Scripps. However, they are allowing 68.6 points against per SCIAC game. Comparatively, Claremont allows just 62.6 points against per SCIAC game.
“We need to find ways to win,” said junior forward Rob Nelsen. “Just because one of us isn’t having the best offensive game or we aren’t shooting the ball well, we must find a way to get more stops on the defensive end … We must play with a better, stronger mindset.”
The Panthers had a strong first half, with junior forward James Taylor leading the Panthers with 26 points, which was his second-highest scoring performance of the season.
“We had a really good game plan,” Taylor said. “We stopped some of their shooters and we were fully denying some of them. They also had a player that worked really well in the post, so we worked it out and stopped him from getting to the right spots down there and that definitely really benefited us a lot.”
The Panthers lost 92-75 in their last matchup against Cal Lutheran (12-6, 5-4) Jan. 12, which Griffin said contributed to the team’s mindset going into Saturday’s game.
“I think this week, we really came in with a lot of focus because we know that they (Cal Lutheran) really blew us out at their home and they really gave us a tough one to swallow,” Griffin said. “We really wanted to come out and make sure that we got some redemption tonight and that we played to the level that we were capable of playing.”
Chapman started off early with three straight blocks against the Kingsmen (12-6, 5-4), keeping Cal Lutheran’s offense from ever gaining the momentum back from the Panthers.
The Panthers’ lead remained through halftime, only shrinking a little after Cal Lutheran’s top scorer junior guard Caleb Richey, who scored 20 points, tried to claw momentum back for the Kingsmen. The first half finished strong when Chapman sophomore guard Reed Nakakihara scored a 3-pointer to give the Panthers a 36-28 halftime lead.
The score became closer toward the end of the second half as Chapman’s fouls accumulated. Taylor served as a vital player, keeping the Panthers ahead for the entirety of the game. Chapman’s all-time record against Cal Lutheran now stands at 45-26.
On Thursday at 7 p.m., the Panthers will face the University of Redlands (7-11, 3-6), which Taylor said can be a tough team to play.
“The Bulldogs are a really big team,” Taylor said. “They work well down low so we will probably work a lot on stopping their big men from getting to the right spots and where they work well. They are just a solid team. Usually we don’t match up too well against them, so we just gotta get back in the gym, get a game plan ready and play our best.”