THOUSAND OAKS — Every time the Occidental College basketball team made a run, Cal Lutheran University answered it. Then on their last real surge of momentum, an unfortunate call took the wind out of the Tiger's sails for good.
Following a Jack Hanley (Seattle) jumper that brought Oxy within two at 48-46, Jake Copithorne blocked Cal Lu's Aaron Van Klaveren's layup attempt. On the ensuing rebound, Conrad Liebowitz (Santa Monica) was whistled for a Flagrant 1 for pivoting too aggressively after recovering the ball. Van Klaveren sank two free throws, Jayvaughn Nettles hit a 3-pointer on the subsequent inbounds play and the Tigers fell 60-54 at Gilbert Arena on Saturday.
It was a five-point possession for Cal Lu instead of the Tigers having the ball and a chance to tie with a little over 3 minutes left.
"What I like about that one is no sour grapes. The referee explained the rule very clearly. Any contact with the head and they have to call it," Occidental coach Brian Newhall said. "We know (Liebowitz) isn't doing it maliciously. Where some rip through to injure, he's ripping through to pivot. It was unfortunate. Then they made a play."
Oxy repeatedly got back into the game without the final push necessary to take the lead and control of the game.
The Tigers (7-9, 2-3 SCIAC) tied the game at 26 with 17:46 remaining in the second half, then CLU extended a six-point lead. Oxy got to within three with 13:10 remaining, but Cal Lu pulled out in front by nine. Hanley had eight of his 15 points during a 12-5 run to bring the Tigers within three with 5 minutes remaining.
Even in the first half the Kingsmen (6-9, 2-3 SCIAC) responded to any momentum gained by Oxy with some of their own. The Tigers went on an 11-2 run to take the lead 22-21, but Xavier Walton quickly answered to give Cal Lu a 23-22 halftime advantage.
Part of the Tigers struggle was fewer possessions cause by Van Klaveren's activity on the offensive glass. The 6-foot-8 center had seven offensive boards, and finished with 22 points and 17 rebounds — both game highs. Hanley's 15 led Oxy and Kris Montoya (Portland, OR) chipped in 12.
"All and all I was happy with overall effort getting out of a funk," Newhall said. "We continue to get a little bit better and now we bounce back and play the two best teams in the league."
Oxy returns to action on the road Wednesday trying to knock off undefeated Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (16-0, 5-0 SCIAC) then host Pomona-Pitzer (9-6, 4-1 SCIAC) on Saturday.