Even with the stadium roaring — fans chanting, “I believe that we will win” — it was not enough momentum for the men’s basketball team to overcome Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, losing 73-67 Wednesday at Frantz Athletic Court.
The Leopards managed to surge in the second half to reduce the gap, facing a 39-20 deficit at the end of the first half, but the Stags kept shutting down every counterattack to spoil the Leopards’ first home opener. Richard Reed, ULV head basketball coach, looked back at the game and realized several key points that blocked his players from reaching their full potential.
“This was our first home opener and we were pretty nervous,” Reed said. “CMS managed to jump in early in the game and struggled during the first ten minutes.”
Those 10 minutes set the advantage for the Stags when they were leading, 18-9, as the Leopards tried to get out of this hole. Freshman guard Weston Newell made a defensive rebound but a turnover was made by his teammate, sophomore forward Niall Harrison.
Much frustration was taking place when senior forward Vince Bauer made two fouls with the first three minutes.
“We knew that we did not play the game that we wanted,” senior guard Jake Veith said. “We knew we had to play all 40 minutes and not let our community down.”
After CMS senior guard Cody Mivshek made a layup in 10:54 at the second half, this brought the Stags to their largest lead, 27 points, with the score 60-33; however, that was when the Leopards thought of one phrase: enough.
“We need to come out and play hard,” Bauer said. “During the first half, it felt that we were not ready.”
The momentum started to shift towards the Leopards as fans, student-athletes and coaches were cheering for a possible comeback. As the crowd got louder, Reed was near ULV’s bench, screaming out calls and pointing where a Leopard should be on the court
“The team expects me to be energetic,” Reed said. “I expect the players to play every play as they expect me to coach every play.”
His message was received as Veith charged through the Stags’ defense and made a successful layup under the last ten minutes on the clock, reducing the gap, 60-37. With the Leopards also managing to go to the foul line, the score was 65-53 with five minutes left.
After Veith made a 3-pointer, his first out of three attempts, the crowd jumped on their feet as CMS’ lead reduced to single digits, 65-56. With 45 seconds left, junior forward/guard Brett Stephan made a steal and made a layup, 66-63.
However, the Stags managed to stall the remainder of the game, obtaining a 3-0 SCIAC record — the Leopards’ SCIAC record is 0-2.
While the first half did not go as planned, Reed is confident that the Leopards can show the same aggressive surge they did in the second half, where they outscored the Stags, 47-34.
“The guys are disappointed but I told them not to have their heads down,” Reed said. “After today, we need to decide which team are we going to be; the one in the first half or the one in the second.”
The Leopards plan to use this surge throughout the next game as they play Pomona-Pitzer at 7 p.m., tomorrow, back at Frantz Athletic Court.
Alex Forbess can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.