THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. - The Cal Lutheran men's basketball team chipped away at an early deficit and used a huge second half to surge past La Verne 77-66 in a Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) matchup on Wednesday night inside Gilbert Arena.
The first half started out slow and methodical with both teams locked at 2-2 four minutes into the action. Once the Leopards shots started falling, they pulled ahead to take a 14-7 lead midway through the half.
The Kingsmen raced back into the game on an 11-5 run thanks to four points from Dan Wade followed by seven straight from junior Sam Cirillo to make it 19-18 La Verne.
Towards the end of the half, Reagan Chapman knocked down a pair of free-throws and Wade hit a jumper to cut the Leopards lead to four, 37-33, heading into the break.
In the second half the Kingsmen remained in striking distance and took their first lead since early in the game with a Connor Mcguire and-onetip-in that fired up the CLU bench. After going up 54-51, the Violet and Gold never looked back, holding on to the lead for the rest of the game.
In a physical game that saw 47 total fouls, the Kingsmen went 24-for-29 (82.3 percent) from the free-throw line, including many down the stretch from freshman Austin Cole to ice the game. Both teams shot similar percentages from the field with La Verne knocking down 46.8 percent (22-for-47) and CLU hitting on 48.1 percent (25-for-52).
Wade led all players in the game with 21 points on his birthday, shooting an efficient 8-for13 from the field and 5-for-5 from the charity stripe. Jeremy Sulker-Hall added 13, Cole finished with 12 and McGuire totaled 11 to put four Kingsmen in double-figures. Lanaki Apele made his first start of the season and had eight points with a team-high two assists and two steals.
Hakim Arnold led La Verne with 20 points and Khaneal Mason finished with 13 points, six rebounds and six assists.
Cal Lutheran (8-9, 4-6 SCIAC) will hit the road for four straight games, beginning against Caltech this Saturday, Feb. 6 at 5:00 p.m.