THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. - The Cal Lutheran men's basketball team held on for a 69-66 upset victory over No. 15 Chapman inside Gilbert Arena on Thursday night. The win snapped the Panthers 21-game regular season winning streak and handed them their first loss this year.
The win is the second this season over a Division III Top-25 ranked team for the Kingsmen after they defeated then No. 9 Illinois Wesleyan to win the Thrivent Financial Tournament at home earlier this season.
"Our guys were really excited to play a good team on our home court," head coach Rich Rider said. "They came ready to play tonight, they were mentally focused and they made some big plays."
With starting guard Dan Wade out of the lineup due to injury, Lanaki Apele gave the Kingsmen a big boost filling in for his first career start at CLU. The junior guard had a few dazzling assists in the first half helping the Kingsmen jump out to a double-digit lead early in the contest.
After Chapman scored the first basket of the game, the Kingsmen rattled off 11 straight points including a big three-pointer from Connor McGuire to force an early Panther timeout.
Cal Lutheran held a steady 21-11 lead midway through the first half, but the Panthers started to see their shots fall and crept back into the game.
"We knew against a good team they were going to comeback," coach Rider said. "Chapman is a very good team, undefeated, No. 15 in the country, so you know they are going to fight back."
With 3:25 left in the half, Chapman tied the game at 27-27 behind a deep three-pointer from leading scorer Colin Zavrsnick. Another jumper from Zavrsnick moments later gave the Panthers a 33-32 lead at halftime.
Cal Lutheran came out of the break on fire and started the second half with a 15-2 run to take 47-35 lead. The two leading scorers for the Kingsmen, Arik Smith and Coltrane Powdrill started to click offensively and they were vital in establishing the second half lead.
The duo combined for 10 of the first 12 points in the second half and another McGuire three-pointer gave the Kingsmen a 12-point lead midway through the final period.
"We were able to make some plays to hold them off and we were finally able to get the ball inside which is what we wanted to do," coach Rider said. "We slowed down the game and stopped them defensively, until the very end when they threw in some tough shots."
With a seemingly comfortable 65-50 lead with 4:01 remaining in the game, Chapman hit the Kingsmen with a barrage of three-pointers. The Panthers hit four three-pointers in under three minutes and cut the CLU lead to four, 68-64 with 1:13 left in the game.
In the blink of an eye it was a one-possession game after Chapman knocked down two free-throws to bring them within two points, 68-66.
After a much needed Apele free-throw to give CLU a three-point lead, the Panthers brought the ball down the court with 28 seconds left with a chance to tie the game. After hitting four straight threes, Chapman came up short on two three-point attempts in the final seconds of the game securing the upset for the Kingsmen.
Powdrill led the Kingsmen with 19 points and was a force on the defensive end swatting away four shots. After a career-high 33-point performance in his last game, Smith added 18 to go along with six rebounds and McGuire had a big game with 13 points, seven rebounds and a strong effort on the defensive end. Apele had a career-high six assists and Guy Lynott grabbed a team-high eight rebounds.
Chapman (16-1, 7-1 SCIAC) was led by Zavrsnick who tied Powdrill with a game-high 19 points, and Justin Young had a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
"You learn the most from close games like this one," coach Rider continued. "Now we know what it takes and these games really help with our confidence."
Cal Lutheran (12-4, 6-2 SCIAC) will bring their confidence into their next matchup on Saturday, Jan. 31 when they host Caltech as part of a split doubleheader with the women's team. The Regals and Beavers will tip-off at 2:00 p.m. at the Gilbert Arena followed by the Kingsmen and Beavers at 4:00 p.m.