LOS ANGELES, Calif. - After falling to Occidental on a buzzer-beater in their last meeting, the Cal Lutheran men's basketball team pulled out a narrow victory of their own with a 63-62 win at Rush Gymnasium on Tuesday night. With the win, CLU clinches a share of the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) title after finishing the season in a three-way tie with Chapman and Claremont-Mudd-Scripps.
It is the first SCIAC title for the Kingsmen since the 2007-08 season when they finished in a first place tie with Occidental.
The Kingsmen jumped out to an early 8-0 lead fueled by two baskets from Arik Smith and with 9:21 remaining in the first half, CLU took their biggest lead of the game up 24-13.
The Tigers responded with back-to-back three-pointers to get back into the game and after an 18-7 spurt they tied the score at 31. With one minute to go in the first half, Smith knocked down a jump shot followed by a three-pointer on the very next possession to give CLU a 36-31 lead at halftime.
Smith opened the scoring in the second half, but Occidental continued to respond on the other end of the court and remained at striking distance. After another three-pointer from Smith, CLU led by nine points with just under six minutes remaining in the game.
Over the next three minutes, the Tigers pounced on the Kingsmen with six straight field goals and an Austin Hawk three-pointer cut the CLU lead to four points, 58-54.
Guy Lynott stretched the lead back to six with two free-throws for the Kingsmen, but Occidental would be quick to respond with a lay-up on the other end.
An Oxy foul with just under a minute left in the game sent Coltrane Powdrill to the line for two shots. Powdrill missed the first but ultimately hit the game-winning free-throw to give CLU a 63-60 lead.
The Tigers connected for two free throws to make the score 63-62 and after a missed free-throw from CLU, the Black and Orange had the ball with 13 seconds left. Oxy was unable to repeat their buzzer-beating magic from the first meeting as Hawk missed a three-pointer as time expired to give the Kingsmen the win.
Smith finished with a game-high 23 points and three steals to go along with six rebounds. Powdrill was the only other Kingsmen in double-figures with 13 points and he also finished with a team-high five assists. Lynott finished with nine points and four assists.
Occidental (11-14, 7-9 SCIAC) was led by Andrew Johnson who had 18 points and Juwan Rice and Kory Hamane who each added 10.
After head-to-head matchups and tiebreaker rules are taken into account, Cal Lutheran (18-6, 12-4 SCIAC) earns the No. 3 seed for this weekend's SCIAC Postseason Tournament and will be on the road to take on No. 2 seed Claremont-Mudd-Scripps this Friday, Feb. 27 at 7:30 p.m. Chapman earns the No. 1 seed and will host No. 4 Whittier in the other semifinal matchup.