Junior forward Kyle Luhnow started the game against the Willamette Bearcats by winning possession of the ball at the Frantz Athletic Court on Nov. 30. The Leopards went on to win their third consecutive game, 84-81. ULV had their winning streak snapped on Wednesday as they fell on the road to Chapman, 55-53. La Verne will host Point Loma Nazarene on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
A three-game win streak for the University of La Verne men’s basketball team, which culminated with an 84-81 victory over Willamette, came to an end on Wednesday night.
The Chapman Panthers squeaked by the Leopards, 55-53, to drop the Leopards to an overall record of 3-3.
“We did not come out of the gate the way we would have liked,” guard Brendan Hallinan said. “We started off slow but our bench stepped up the level of intensity.”
The Leopards trailed Chapman the entire game, facing a 13 point deficit with seven minutes to go.
ULV then went on a 13-0 run to tie the game, 53-53.
The Leopards had a final shot at the end but Brian Mancilla’s shot went in and out.
La Verne was forced to foul and Chapman center Jared Kaiser made two free throws with two seconds left in the game.
The loss splits the season series between the two teams.
The Leopards defeated Chapman at home on Nov. 20, 59-56.
“Unfortunately, we let Chapman have too many second chance opportunities,” Hallinan said.
ULV’s win over Willamette on Nov. 30 came after falling behind 40-33 at the half.
“The first thing is we got to credit the guys,” head coach Richard Reed said. “We picked up our intensity and they’re starting to figure things out. We’re finding a way to win.”
“We’re coming together,” junior forward Kyle Luhnow said. “We played well during the second half. We just got to do this every game, all game.”
The game started evenly with a field goal by junior guard Drew Terry to tie the score, 6-6.
But the Bearcats opened the lead to 11-6 following a shot by senior forward Ian Mansfield.
The Leopards tied the game again in the early minutes with help from senior forward Robert Hughes to make the score 13-13.
However, this time the Bearcats extended their lead and never looked back behind to lead by seven after the half.
“Overall we need to have a better start to begin games,” Reed said.
After the half, the Leopards saw their deficit grow from seven points to 12 points following a jumper by junior Tain Cantrell.
The Leopards rallied back behind their outside shooters with a couple of three pointers, by junior guard Danny Vasquez to bring the deficit to 53-47.
Hughes tied the game 55-55 after a pair of free throws.
The Leopards then extended their lead to 61-60 following another Hughes shot.
The Leopards increased their defensive game after a crucial block by Hughes that sparked the Leopards.
However, the Bearcats gained the momentum back, leading the Leopards, 68-67.
Then the Leopards’ offensive front went to work with a massive dunk by Hughes over multiple defenders.
Then the outside shooters heated up following the Hughes dunk.
Guard Matt Heyd hit a three-pointer from long range to put the Leopards up by six, 79-73.
The Bearcats attempted to rally back, coming within one point after a two pointer by Corey Costantino.
The Leopards made their free throws when it mattered most to hold on to their lead and the win.
ULV outscored the Bearcats 51-41 in the second half.
The Leopards also caused problems for the Bearcats with defensive plays that were dramatically improved from the first half.
Terry led the Leopards in scoring and rebounding with 20 points and nine rebounds. Hughes and Luhnow contributed 19 and 11 points, respectively.
Hughes led the defensive front with five defensive rebounds, three blocks and one steal.
Reed credits his bench players for their energy, but some players on the team feel there is still room for improvement.
“We need to put 40 minutes together,” Luhnow said. “But it didn’t work out so well.”
“We definitely have the ability to play better and play harder,” Canas said. “We need to run our sets better and pick up our intensity on defense.”
“It was a big win and it’s all off of big defense,” junior forward Juan Canas said.
“We got to come back and try to beat them again,” Luhnow said after the Willamette game.
“We know we have to come out and play better defense,” Hughes said after the Willamette game.
The Leopards are looking to bounce back from the loss on Wednesday.
They are also looking forward to keeping the same energy to compete onward to next year.
The Leopards end this week of play Saturday against Point Loma Nazarene at 7:30 p.m. at the Frantz Athletic Court.
Currently the Sea Lions are rank No. 10 in the NAIA rankings.
“Our expectations in the program are play hard, play with some passion, play defense and play Leopard basketball. Period,” Reed said.
“We want to finish top four in our conference so we can play in the conference tournament,” Luhnow said.
“We definitely plan on still winning games. Take it one step at a time,” Hughes said.
Jonathan Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.