Tuesday was a night to forget for the Chapman men’s basketball team as it was completely outplayed by visiting Whittier, falling 79-63.
Coming into the game tied for first place in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC), the 18th ranked Panthers (18-3, 9-3) looked to solidify their top spot with a win over the Poets (13-8, 7-5) who were looking to remain in playoff contention.
However, fueled by their loss to perennial bottom-feeder Caltech, who recorded its first SCIAC victory in 55 games earlier this season, the Poets dominated the game with stifling defense and relentless offense.
“They came out with intensity and I feel like we really didn’t,” said senior guard Taylor Hamasaki. “We played on our heels and they were pressuring our ball handlers, making everything harder on us and we just struggled.”
Chapman played poorly on both sides of the ball, shooting 37 percent from the field while giving up a season-high 79 points. The Panthers struggled offensively the entire game as the Poets’ defense overwhelmed Chapman’s guards and never allowed them to find a rhythm.
Heading into halftime with a 38-36 lead, the Panthers had closed the first half riding senior guard Colin Zavrsnick who kept Chapman in the game. However, the second half belonged to the Poets who jumped out to an early lead and never let go.
For head coach Mike Bokosky, the loss was a result of poor preparation on his part alone.
“It’s a coach’s loss and I’m not being a martyr,” he said. “We had two days to prepare for Whittier and we spent two days emphasizing our offense, emphasizing when they zone us and emphasizing line up changes.”
Bokosky said that teams reflect what the coaches tell them and how they should prepare for an opponent.
“Our message we gave our players was that we were preparing us to win by playing offense and attacking their press,” he said. “That’s not what happened, it was their dribble penetration and three-point shooting.”
Led by junior forward Andrew Torres (22 points), junior guard Eric Jennings (18 points) and senior guard Nick Demusis (15 points), the Poets shot 61 percent from the field and 53 percent from beyond the arc, hitting eight-of-15 3-pointers.
Chapman was unable to stop Torres and Jennings who proved to be defensive nightmares for the Panthers, allowing them to penetrate the defense and get easy shots.
For the Panthers, it was a game they said they must forget and focus on their seven-day break before taking on Redlands (5-16, 2-10) in another SCIAC showdown.
“We got killed but we just have to forget about it,” said senior guard Garrett James. “We have four more games and we just have to finish strong.”
Bokosky was very blunt in his assessment of the team, breaking down the loss into one sentence.
“As they say in Santa Ana, it was a good old butt whooping,” he said. “Basketball is very emotional, if you get defensive stops it energizes your offense and demoralizes their offense.”
With four more games left, the Panthers will have another chance to clinch a place in the SCIAC tournament when they travel to Redlands Saturday, Feb. 17.