LA VERNE, Calif. — The University of La Verne men's basketball team rode a fast start to beat Pomona-Pitzer, 80-64, on Wednesday night at Sports Science and Athletic Pavilion.
La Verne improves to 6-8 overall and 4-2 in SCIAC play. Pomona-Pitzer falls to 7-8 and 1-5.
"Our guys came out focused on the game plan both offensively and defensively," La Verne head coach Richard Reed said. "Sometimes the shots go down, sometimes they don't. We got good locks, took advantage of mismatches and luckily for us, the shots went down."
The Sagehens held the size advantage, but the Leopards used their superior athleticism to drive to the basket, create easy looks and limit the Sagehens' second chance opportunities.
The Leopards executed on defense as well. Nicholas Lewis, Jordan Stokes and Evan Gustafson took turns guarding Gibson Farone-Collins, who is the only player in the SCIAC averaging a double-double per game, and held him scoreless in the first half as La Verne went into the break leading 39-21.
"You can't hold players like that down for too long," Reed said. "What we tried to do was make things difficult for him and make him work for everything and we were fortunate to be able to take him out of the game early."
La Verne stretched the lead to as much as 24 points early in the second half but Farone-Collins came alive and Pomona-Pitzer came within 58-44 with just under eight minutes left in the game.
McClain hit a 3-pointer to put the Leopards up by 18 with 5:53 to go, Gustafson bulldozed his way to two tough baskets and the Leopards made enough defensive stops to hold on for the win.
"We're not a super experienced team," Reed said. "We've never been up by that margin this year so it was a good opportunity for us to learn how to manage the lead. I was proud of the way our guys fought through it."
Gustafson couldn't have been more efficient. The freshman put up a career-high 17 points on 7-of-7 shooting in just 13 minutes off the bench.
McClain shot 4-of-5 from behind the arc for 12 points and Arnold was his usual self, putting up 20 points and hauling in eight rebounds.
Daneil Rosenbaum had a game-high 29 points for the Sagehens and Farone-Collins finished with 12 points and 16 rebounds.
The Leopards are back in action on Saturday at home against Caltech.