ORANGE, Calif. – The Chapman University men's basketball team moved up to the No. 3 spot in the SCIAC standings after a thrilling 77-74 victory over Whittier. With the Poets just one game behind the Panthers prior to tonight, Chapman had to win to stay above Whittier. Chapman completed the come-from-behind win with the help of junior Josh Mendoza, who led the Panthers with 14 points.
Mendoza proved to be a clutch reserve for the Panthers, going 3-for-4 from downtown in the second half. Twelve of the junior's points were from three-point range, including back-to-back threes to give Chapman the lead late in the game.
Chapman took advantage of their opportunities, scoring 19 of their points off Poet turnovers. The Panthers hit 11 three pointers on 40.7 percent shooting from behind the arc.
Whittier went up 15-4 early in the game with help from senior Eric Davis, who scored the first five points of the game. Senior Tyler Green hit his first three of the game to cut the Poets' lead to eight, but Whittier answered with seven points of their own to go up by 15 points with over 12 minutes left to play in the first.
Mendoza drained a three and a layup on back-to-back plays, followed by a layup from senior Rob Nelsen to help cut the lead to eight points. With just over seven minutes left to play, juniors Reed Nakakihara and Jake Moore traded three-pointers, but the Poets extended their lead to 13 points off a pair of made free throws from Davis. After the teams traded a few points, Nelsen drained two free throws to cut Whittier's lead to 36-27 heading into the second half.
The Panthers and Poets went back-and-forth for the first three and a half minutes until Nakakihara sank a three to get Chapman's momentum going. Junior Corwin Feerick followed Nakakihara with a layup, cutting Whittier's lead to six points. Moments later, senior Luke Selway hit a clutch three pointer out of a timeout to cut the lead even further.
With just under 13 minutes left to play in the game, Nelsen converted a three-point play after being fouled going up to the basket. Selway followed suit, driving to the basket twice in back-to-back possessions to tie the game up with 11:44 left to play. Over the span of less than a minute, Poet junior Conner Longmire sank a couple of free throws and a layup to help Whittier regain the lead.
Enter Mendoza. The junior sank back-to-back three pointers to cut the Poets' lead to one point. Feerick followed with a layup to give Chapman its first lead of the game with under nine minutes left to play in the game. Mendoza caught fire, hitting another three to extend the Panthers' lead to four points. A shot from behind the arc from sophomore Joey Toyama and a layup from senior Louis Kurihara put the Poets back in the lead by just one point with under seven minutes to play.
Chapman went on a 7-0 run to take the lead once again, this time by six points. Whittier took one last lead with 2:38 left to play in the game off a three pointer from Kurihara, but the Panthers weren't going to go down without a fight. Nakakihara drained another three to help Chapman regain the lead, followed by a Nelsen layup. Poet senior Eric Davis went up for three layups in the final minute of the game, draining all three and converting the three-point play on the last one, but a few made free throws from Nakakihara and Green secured the come-from-behind win for the Panthers.
Selway completed his third double-double of the season with 12 points and 10 rebounds. The senior captain also recorded seven assists to help Chapman. Nakakihara drained four three pointers on 4-for-7 shooting.
The Panthers return home this Saturday, Feb. 10 at 2pm against La Verne. Seniors Selway, Nelsen and Green will be honored as they play the final home game of their careers.
by Katie Bell
Sports Information Assistant