SAN DIMAS (2-6) – UC Santa Cruz finished their two game trip to Southern California as they took on Whittier College in Whittier. The game was nip and tuck until the second half but in the end, the Poets came away with an 85-74 win.
The game was a rematch of a game that was played on December 20th at Kaiser Permanente Arena which the Poets won 86-72. In their last game, UC Santa Cruz won 64-56 over Life Pacific College in San Dimas yesterday while Whittier lost 91-89 to University of La Verne in La Verne on Saturday.
In the first half, the two teams played back and forth basketball for the first few minutes. The Poets would gain the lead and would take their largest lead of the half at five, at 19-14, on an Anthony Martinez three pointer with 14:26 left in the half. The Banana Slugs would work their way back into the ballgame and would take the lead, at 22-19, on a Ben Dorfman three pointer with 12:25 left in the half. The Banana Slugs would gain their largest lead of the ballgame at five on two occasions; the second occasion at 42-37 on a Jared Ponce free throw with 2:10 left. The Poets would then go on a 7-0 half-ending run to take a 44-42 lead at the halftime break.
In the second half, the Poets would hold the Banana Slugs at arms' length. The Poets would expand their lead to seven on two occasions; the second occasion at 51-44 on an Andrew Torres layup with 16:53 left. The Banana Slugs would come as close as one, at 51-50, on a Will Crain layup with 15:39 left. The Poets would expand their lead to double digits, at 62-52, on a Mike Jones-Mensah free throw with 11:44 left. The Banana Slugs would then go on a 16-7 run, capped by a Jared Ponce free throw with 4:49 left, to make the score 69-68. The Banana Slugs would get no closer, however, as the Poets went on a 12-3 run, capped by an Eric Jennings layup, to expand their lead back to double digits at 81-71. The Poets would gain their largest lead of the ballgame at eleven, at 82-71, on an Andrew Torres free throw with twenty-nine seconds left. The Poets would go on to win 85-74 to break the Banana Slugs' two game winning streak.
Crain had a double double with a game high eighteen points and a game high seventeen rebounds. Jennings also had a game high eighteen points for the Poets. Dorfman and Jared Ponce both had fourteen points in the loss. Torres had seventeen, Connor Longmire had eleven points, off the bench, and Jones-Mensah and Martinez both had ten for the Poets.
The Banana Slugs shot 34.7% (26-75) from the field, 37% (10-27) from the three-point line and was 70.6% (12-17) from the free throw line. The Poets shot 42.4% (28-66) from the field, 37.1% (13-35) from the three-point line and 76.2% (16-21) from the foul line. UC Santa Cruz's defense forced eleven turnovers by the Poets scoring sixteen points off the turnovers while the Poets' defense forced twelve turnovers by UC Santa Cruz scoring eleven points off the turnovers. UC Santa Cruz outrebounded Whittier 50-41 while the Poets had twenty more points off the bench (36-16) than did the Banana Slugs.
The next game for the Banana Slugs will be Saturday as they take on Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago. Tipoff is set for 11 am.