Men’s basketball wins fifth straight

Freshman center Reed Smith posts up against a La Sierra University defender in Chapman’s 82-67 win Nov. 16. Panther Archives

The men’s basketball team has yet to lose this season, bringing home two more wins this week against West Coast Baptist College and La Sierra University. Chapman beat West Coast Baptist without much resistance, but fought against La Sierra Dec. 2 to win by one point.

“Our energy was really high,” said junior guard Josh Mendoza about the La Sierra game. “The bench’s energy definitely helped us keep believing and fighting till the end.”

Mendoza said La Sierra came out “hungrier” than Chapman, because the team had already beat them in the first game of the season, Nov. 16.

“We just didn’t play hard. We gave up easy baskets on defense and weren’t playing smart with the ball on offense,” he said. “That was probably the worst first half we played all season, and I think everybody knew that.”

Chapman picked up the momentum after halftime and fought to win the game by just one point.

“(During halftime), we talked about having self-pride on defense and playing with better effort,” Mendoza said. “We also talked about being smarter on offense because we had a few turnovers in the first half.”

Led by a second-half three-point barrage, the men’s basketball team also won on Nov. 28 at West Coast Baptist College. The 90-75 win was Chapman’s highest-scoring game so far this season.

“It’s a good win for us,” said junior point guard Reed Nakakihara. “It’s a good learning experience as we continue to get better and realize every single game is not going to be easy.”

While Chapman never fell behind in the game, the team saw a 12-point first-half lead disappear during the second half. West Coast Baptist tied the game twice in the second half.

“(Coming into the game), we knew we were the favorite, and that kind of hurt us,” Nakakihara said. “We didn’t come out with enough energy, but it’s a good game for us to learn from and keep getting better.”

The turning point came when Mendoza hit three straight three-point shots in the second half, giving Chapman a nine-point lead. Despite playing 16 minutes – eighth among the 12 Chapman players who played – Mendoza led the team with 23 points, making six of his seven three-pointers during the second half.

“My role is to be a shooter, so the first thing I do is look for an open shot,” Mendoza said. “I haven’t gotten to play a lot up until this point, so this was my chance to make my mark for the team and try and bring some type of spark.”

Chapman players are still acclimating to the new roster this season, feeling out the patterns of its teammates and new team members, Nakakihara said.

“We just have to take it day-by-day, and focus on the small steps and the big picture will come along. We’re all starting to get more comfortable playing alongside each other,” he said.

This need is especially apparent when it comes to defense, Nakakihara said.

“I think we just need to be more consistent with it,” he said. “We have flashes where we are pretty good and then there are times where we’re struggling on the defensive end and that’s unacceptable.”

Chapman will play its first conference game at Pomona-Pitzer College Dec. 6.

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