MALIBU, Calif. — For a good portion of the game, the Occidental College men's basketball team had NCAA Division I Pepperdine University a little uneasy, before falling to the waves 78-72 in an exhibition game at Firestone Fieldhouse on Saturday.
It was not a game they were supposed to win or even a game they were supposed to be close in, but someone apparently forgot to tell the Tigers (0-0). Oxy took a 36-32 lead into halftime and held off the Waves (O-0) until the 12-minute mark in the second half.
Later, the Tigers went on a 12-2 run to take the lead 62-59 with a little more than 6 minutes remaining— led by Conrad Liebowitz (Santa Monica, CA) scoring seven of his game-high 20 points during the stretch. Pepperdine answered though with a run of their own and the Tigers came up a little short of pulling off a major upset.
"When they made that run, we pushed right back to tie the score," Occidental coach Brian Newhall said. "We didn't roll over, we didn't fall apart, and we hung in. … So it was a great lesson for the entire group."
And an impressive first showing for a Tigers team, trying to avenge a subpar 6-8 SCIAC season last year, that hadn't even played a scrimmage yet in the 2011-12.
"The team as a whole was coming off a different type of season so I thought as a group we played well," Newhall said. "We had three clear-cut goals which were: to compete, to have fun and to stay together as a team."
Even Pepperdine coach Marty Wilson was impressed with a prepared Oxy squad.
"Occidental is a well-coached team and very disciplined," Wilson said in a press release. "We knew they would throw their best shot at us."
Deshun McCoy (Los Angeles, CA) scored 14 of his 20 points in the first half and Oxy as a team was 7 for 17 from the three-point line.
The Tigers were able to take care of the ball, something that typically goes wrong when smaller schools take on Division I teams in the preseason.
Oxy had 17 assists and just 12 turnovers, led by Jack Hanley (Seattle, WA) who had six assists and no turnovers to go along with nine points, and Nick Robinson (Palo Alto, CA) who dished out four assists without committing a turnover.
Jake Copithorne (Newton Centre, MA) posted a double-double for Oxy, scoring 10 points and grabbing 11 boards.
Oxy's back in action on the road against American Sports University on Nov. 16 at 7 p.m., before returning home to play defending NCAA Division III national champion St. Thomas (Min.) on Nov. 18 at 7:30 p.m.