ORANGE, Calif. – An early second half surge led the Chapman University men's basketball team to an 82-67 comeback win in its season-opener over La Sierra. Junior Reed Nakakihara poured 19 of his 22 points in the second half to lead the comeback.
After shooting just 35.5 percent in the first half and trailing 33-30 at halftime, the Panthers (1-0) found a second half spark behind the sharp shooting of Nakakihara. The junior point guard caught fire behind the three-point arc and knocked down five three-pointers in the second half.
Nakakihara scored 22 points in the game, shooting 6-of-12 from long range and sinking all four free throws he attempted. Senior Rob Nelsen scored 16 points – 10 of which came in the second half surge. He also had a team-high of eight rebounds to go along with a pair of assists and a pair of blocks. Nakakihara had three assists.
Freshman Daniel McCown scored 10 points off the bench in his debut with a pair of three-pointers. Chapman sunk 12-of-31 three-pointers as a team but hit 20-of-23 free throw attempts to keep La Sierra at a double digit deficit down the stretch.
Chapman opened the game on a 9-2 run but soon saw that early lead evaporate when La Sierra answered with a 12-3 run to take a 14-12 lead. Zac Phororo hit a three just before halftime to tilt the seesaw in La Sierra's direction at the break.
In the first minute and a half of the second half, La Sierra extended its lead to 37-32. Nelsen got to the rim for a layup and later knocked down a pair of free throws to bring Chapman within one. That sparked an 18-3 run that saw the five-point deficit turn into a 10-point lead at 50-40. Nakakihara scored nine points during the stretch with three triples and junior Jeff Kenney added in six of his seven points.
The Golden Eagles made a run around the five minute mark to pull within six but Nakakihara answered with a three-pointer. DJ Everage was hit with a technical foul after his layup and Nakakihara knocked down the two free three to keep the lead at nine.
With Chapman hitting its free throws down the stretch, the Panthers continued to pull away for the win.
Chapman faces a five-game road trip up next but returns home on Dec. 8 to take on UC Santa Cruz at 7 p.m.
By Steven Olveda
Sports Information Director