Photo by: Tony Leon/ActionWestPhotography.com
WHITTIER, Calif. – The Whittier College Men's Basketball team dropped a heart breaker Saturday afternoon 77-75 to Division II UC Merced during the Purple & Gold Poet Classic.
The Purple & Gold see their losing skid move to three games as they drop to 0-3.
Whittier battled all night and trailed by ten midway through the first half but managed to hold a one-point lead with 1:31 to play but couldn't complete the win in their home opener.
Victor Nwaba (Los Angeles, Calif.) put the Poets up 75-74 after a pair of free throws but the Bobcats' Ryan Haywood would add the go-ahead lay-up with :14 seconds to play. The Poets had an opportunity for the win with eight seconds remaining but on the ensuing throw-in Nwaba bobbled the in-bounds turning it over and allowing UC Merced to escape with the win.
It was back and forth in the early stages of the contest until the Bobcats erupted for an 11-4 run that put them on top 28-18 at the 6:32 mark. Conner Longmire (Tarzana, Calif.) stopped the run with a triple and added a pair of free throws soon after, while getting joined by a Nwaba lay-in. Nick Potthoff (Phoenix, AZ) added a three-pointer soon after that cut the deficit to three and would strike again from long-range minutes later that deadlocked the game at 33-33.
Louis Kurihara (Culver City, Calif.) got into the mix with under two minutes to play converting a pair of free throws to put WC on top 35-34 but that lead would be short-lived as Branson Garcia and Haywood would go back-to-back on triples giving the Bobcats a 40-35 lead at the break.
Andrew Williams got UC Merced off and running in the second half with an early triple that moved the score 43-35 but that wouldn't deter Whittier as they fought right back sparked by lay-ups from Jake Moore (Dallas, TX) and Nwaba. An 11-2 run midway through the second got the Purple & Gold offensive unit going. Jalen Gilmore (Inglewood, Calif.) and Nwaba added lay-ups and was joined by a couple three-pointers from Longmire and Kurihara. This pulled the Poets within four but would erase that quickly as Reggie Dixon (Oxnard, Calif.) provided a spark with a pair of jumpers and lay-up that pulled WC within one.
On the poets next possession Eric Davis (Ventura, Calif.) came up with a dagger from dead on that put Whittier on top 59-57 and Longmire followed with a lay-up moving the margin to five with 7:32 to play. Whittier maintained their small lead over the next few minutes but saw it evaporate as Derek E'Denchukwu would add a three-pointer and layup that swung the momentum.
Whittier shot 39% from the field and was outrebounded 48-38. They forced 19 turnovers by UC Merced and earned 16 points off of them, while receiving 26 bench points.
Nwaba finished with a game high 18 points on 7-10 shooting. Potthoff added 12 with seven boards, an assist and two steals, while Longmire and Dixon each added 10 points a piece off the bench.
Whittier wraps up the Classic tonight, Sunday, November 26 as they take on College of New Rochelle with tip-off set for 7:00pm.