LA VERNE — Zach Baines came up big inside and the Occidental men's basketball team hit clutch free throws, edging La Verne on the road 77-73 in its first SCIAC game of the season on Wednesday night.
Baines, Oxy's senior leading scorer, went into the post for 27 points on 11 for 22 shooting, and grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds. He also hit all five of his free throws, including two crucial 1-and-1 situations after being fouled with the game tied with 2:05 to play and 54 seconds to play.
With 39 seconds left and a 75-73 lead, Oxy finally got the defensive stop it needed with Baines securing the rebound. Jacob Adler hit a pair of free throws at the other end to make it a four-point game and the Tigers escaped the Inland Empire with a gritty SCIAC victory.
"We didn't play our best basketball tonight, but we pulled together and found a way to win," Oxy head coach Brian Newhall said. "La Verne played very hard and give them credit for getting us off our game. We hit important free throws and showed good character at the end of the game to finish it off."
Austin DeWitz had a key layup and a pair of free throws with 3:41 to play to give Oxy the lead twice. The senior finished with 23 points on 9 for 14 shooting, and six rebounds.
Oxy point guard Ryan Kaneshiro came up with big on-ball defense and fronted La Verne's big down the stretch, finishing with two points, 10 rebounds and five assists.
Jacob Adler added 11 points off the bench, including a pair of 3-pointers for Oxy.
Tyler Sweeney gave the Tigers 6 solid minutes off the bench and Oxy was able able to overcome heavy foul trouble most notably to Jonny Crosthwaite who spent a good portion of the first half on the bench with three fouls and then fouled out with 12 minutes to play in the second half, having played just 13 minutes.
Sinai Enoch led the Leopards with 15 points off the bench, Alec Vucinich added 12 points and nine rebounds, Jordan Allen had 13 points and Evan Gustafson scored 11 points.
La Verne played inside out, going into the post to generate most of its offense.
Oxy led 43-31 at halftime and looked as if it might pull away, but the Leopards scored five points in the first 52 seconds of the half, setting the tone for a 20 minute battle.
Season Impact: Oxy improves to 6-0 on the season and 1-0 in SCIAC play.
La Verne falls to 1-4 and 0-1.
Next Game: Oxy is back in action on Saturday, playing Cal Miramar at home in non-conference action at 7 p.m. Oxy's next SCIAC game is on Dec. 16 against Whittier at home at 4 p.m.Follow Oxy Athletics on Twitter Sign Up for Newsletters Watch on Youtube Follow us on Instagram