WHITTIER, Calif. - A career night from Arik Smith and a three-pointer from freshman Kellen Birdsall with five seconds left in overtime gave the Cal Lutheran men's basketball team a 78-76 Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) victory over Whittier at Graham Athletics Center on Tuesday night.
Smith poured in a career-best 33 points, topping his previous high of 31, and fueled a second half comeback to force overtime against the Poets.
After trailing 40-26 at halftime, Smith scored 19 points in the second half to bring the Violet and Gold back into the game. The Kingsmen slowly began to chip away at the Whittier lead in the second half but still found themselves trailing by nine points with 8:29 left in the game.
Two layups from Connor McGuire and key free-throws from Coltrane Powdrill brought CLU to within three points, 61-58 with 5:11 to go.
After the Poets converted a basket to go up 63-58, Smith drained back-to-back three-pointers for the Kingsmen to take a 64-63 lead. The senior guard continued his clutch performance with a game-tying jump shot with 22 seconds on the clock, which would ultimately force overtime after the Poets missed a chance to win the game at the end of regulation.
In overtime, the Kingsmen found themselves down early after two quick three-pointers from the Poets. Smith rallied the troops once again with yet another three-pointer and Powdrill converted a tip-in basket to bring CLU to within one point, 76-75 with 1:27 remaining.
Whittier missed a three-pointer to take a firm grasp of the game and wound up turning the ball over despite grabbing the offensive rebound. The Kingsmen capitalized on the opportunity as Birdsall drained a three-pointer with five seconds to go giving CLU the win.
Powdrill had a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds and Birdsall had a career-high seven points in 18 minutes off the bench. McGuire pulled down a game-high 12 rebounds.
Whittier (11-6, 5-3 SCIAC) was led by senior guard Nick Demusis who had 23 points and Andrew Bucholtz added 13.
Cal Lutheran (11-4, 5-2 SCIAC) returns to Gilbert Arena this Thursday, Jan. 29 where they will face No. 18 Chapman (16-0, 7-0 SCIAC) at 7:30 p.m.
Box Score: CLU 78, WC 76 (OT)
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