SANTA CRUZ (1-29) – UC Santa Cruz finished their home and home series with University of La Verne at Kaiser Permanente Arena. The Banana Slugs come back from a nine-point deficit late in the first half to win 77-71 over the Leopards to sweep the season series between the two schools.
In their last game, UC Santa Cruz lost 75-64 to CSU Maritime Academy in Santa Cruz on Wednesday while University of La Verne won 74-72 over Occidental College on Wednesday in Los Angeles.
In the first half, the two teams would trade baskets over the first six minutes. The Leopards would take the lead, at 12-9, on a Cruz Mertens three pointer with 13:21 left in the half. The Leopards would expand their lead and would take their largest lead of the ballgame at nine, at 28-19, on a Mertens three pointer with 5:01 left in the half. The Banana Slugs would then go on an 11-1 run, capped by a pair of Matthew Ponce free throws, to take the lead at 30-29. Jeremy McGirr would hit a pair of free throws to give the Banana Slugs their largest lead of the half at three at 32-29. The Banana Slugs led 32-31 at halftime.
In the second half, the Banana Slugs would expand their lead to six, at 37-31, on a Jared Ponce three pointer with 18:17 left. The Leopards would get themselves back into the ballgame and would take the lead, at 38-37, on a Mertens three pointer with 17:16 left. The Banana Slugs would gain the lead for good, at 39-38, on a Sam Gabbard layup with 15:10 left. The Banana Slugs would extend their lead to double digits, at 51-41, on a Ben Dorfman three pointer with 10:55 left. The Banana Slugs would gain their largest lead of the ballgame at fourteen, at 59-45, on a Dylan Holler three pointer with 9:38 left. The closest the Leopards would get the rest of the game was four, at 75-71, on a Khaneal Mason three pointer with sixteen seconds left. The Banana Slugs won 77-71 to break their two game losing streak.
Gabbard had a game high twenty-five points for the Banana Slugs. Anthony White had seventeen points for the Leopards. Kyle Creighton had a career-high seventeen points in the win. Mertens had sixteen, Hakim Arnold had thirteen and Jordan Stokes had twelve for the Leopards.
The Banana Slugs shot 49% (24-49) from the field, 50% (6-12) from the three-point line and was a season-high 95.8% (23-24) from the free throw line. The Leopards shot 45.6% (26-57) from the field, 45.8% (11-24) from the three-point line and 80% (8-10) from the foul line. UC Santa Cruz's defense forced eighteen turnovers by the Leopards scoring twenty-two points off the turnovers while the Leopards' defense forced seventeen turnovers by UC Santa Cruz scoring eighteen points off the turnovers. UC Santa Cruz outrebounded University of La Verne 31-27 and the Banana Slugs had twenty eight more points off the bench (39-11) than did the Leopards.
The next game for the Banana Slugs will be next Saturday as they take on Life Pacific College in San Dimas. Tipoff is set for 7 pm.