The Chapman men’s basketball team’s offense struggled to find its rhythm in a 65-60 away defeat to the University of La Verne on Feb. 4.
The Panthers went into Saturday’s game in good form after back-to-back wins against California Lutheran University and the University of Redlands, but La Verne was able to stay tied for second and hand the Panthers their seventh conference loss of the season, complicating Chapman’s potential road to the playoffs.
The loss means that the Panthers have five games left to grab as many wins as possible in order to crack the top four and qualify for the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) playoffs. The team is currently in sixth place.
“We had a couple spurts where we struggled to put points on the board and made some costly turnovers,” said junior forward James Taylor. “La Verne capitalized on these turnovers because they really like to get in transition.”
Taylor led the Panthers (9-11, 4-7) with 27 points, his highest scoring performance in the SCIAC this season. Junior guard Rob Nelsen had 12 points while sophomore guard Reed Nakakihara had six.
The Panthers’ defense forced 19 turnovers out of the Leopards, but Chapman wasn’t able to score in transition well enough to take full advantage.
“We need to have a better pace on offense and not let the shot clock go down so low,” junior guard Tyler Green said. “They put a lot of pressure on us and forced us to turn it over quite a bit.”
Chapman struggled offensively for stretches, as the Leopards (13-7, 7-4) outrebounded the Panthers 35-24 and scored 20 points off turnovers.
“La Verne is a team that thrives off of their crowd and energy,” Nakakihara said. “They got a few things to go for them and they got going. Given that, we were still in it and had a chance to win at the end.”
For a moment, it looked like the Panthers were going to repeat the last-second heroics they pulled off on Thursday night against the University of Redlands. With eight seconds left in the game, Nelsen hit a 3-pointer to cut La Verne’s lead to two points at 62-60. However, La Verne worked the remaining time off the clock, scoring a few free throws in the dying seconds to seal the victory.
“This was a tough loss, but we have to come together and stay focused,” Nakakihara said. “We have to have a good week of practice and get ready for Thursday night.”
The Panthers have a bit of a break before they face off against Pomona-Pitzer on Feb. 9 at home in a crucial game for the SCIAC playoff aspirations.
“I think it’s just important for all of us to have the mindset that we have to win out so we can just focus on winning every game,” Taylor said. “Having these next couple of days to prepare for Thursday will allow us to put together a solid game plan.”