LA VERNE, Calif. — Staring at back-to-back losses, Hakim Arnold and the University of La Verne men's basketball executed when it mattered.
Arnold sank a three-pointer at the buzzer after a huge defensive stop, lifting the Leopards to a 68-67 victory over Pacific (Ore.) on Sunday afternoon at Sports Science and Athletic Pavilion.
The shot bounced off the rim and hung on the rim for what seemed like an eternity before rolling in.
"When I let it go it felt good and when it went in, it was a sense of relief," Arnold said. "Coming off an injury, it's been a struggle for me but it was just a big relief to help my teammates get out of the tank that we're in."
Arnold finished with 16 points, 12 of which came in the second half, and added seven rebounds and two assists.
"We played five guards and [Arnold] had a mismatch," La Verne head coach Richard Reed said. "So Hakim was very aggressive going to the basket, allowing us to get into the bonus.
"He's been exceptional. For him to be unselfish and come off the bench for this team shows his character."
The Leopards looked sluggish to start the second half for the second game in a row and the Boxers took advantage to grab a 14-point lead with 12 minutes left in the game.
But the Leopards clamped down defensively, using traps and pressure to knock the Boxers off balance, and made some big shots to rally.
"I just told them to keep competing, keep fighting," Reed said. "We knew that there was a plenty of time but we just couldn't sustain a run. … The main things were 'rebound the ball, push it, create tempo and hopefully wear them down.'"
After a Devon Pouncey layup gave Pacific a 54-40 lead, the Leopards held the Boxers to 4-of-13 shooting the rest of the way and Arnold scored 11 of his 12 second half points in that same stretch.
Victor Costa made a couple of baskets and drew some big free throws down the stretch to finish with eight points.
DeVon Pouncey had 15 points and four rebounds off the bench for the Boxers. Skyler Burgess chipped in 14 points and Michael Joseph added 11.
La Verne returns to action on Thursday at NCAA Division I Southern Utah at 6 p.m. PT.