ORANGE, Calif. – The Chapman University men's basketball team dropped a hard-fought game to their former Division III independent rivals UC Santa Cruz on Friday night. The Panthers, led by seniors Rob Nelsen and Luke Selway, fell as the Banana Slugs had a late push to take the game 72-67.
Nelsen and Selway both tallied six boards to help Chapman on defense. The duo also led the Panthers on offense, as Nelsen put up 13 points on 6-for-11 shooting and Selway tallied nine points on 3-for-6 shooting.
UC Santa Cruz went up early in the first half, taking a 10-4 lead just over four minutes into the game. A basket from beyond the arc from junior Reed Nakakihara pulled them right back in the game. Three consecutive free throws from freshman Reed Smith brought the Panthers even with the Banana Slugs with just over 11 minutes left to play in the first half.
Chapman's first lead of the game came with just over nine minutes left in the half when Nelsen tipped in a missed shot, giving the Panthers a 17-16 lead. UC Santa Cruz regained their lead but could not hold on to it, as Nelsen came in clutch again with a layup to put the Panthers up by one point with two and a half minutes left in the first half.
The Banana Slugs struck back, as senior Kyle Creighton drained a three with just over a minute left to play and fellow senior Sam Gabbard made a layup to give UC Santa Cruz a four point lead heading into halftime.
The second half saw back-and-forth action, with the Banana Slugs going up by as much as 10 points. With just over 13 and a half minutes left to play in the game, Nakakihara was fouled while taking a three-pointer, putting himself in an and-one situation after he drained the three. The junior was able to convert the four-point play and brought the Panthers within one point of UC Santa Cruz.
Chapman and the Banana Slugs saw three ties within a four and a half minute span, but UC Santa Cruz always regained the lead. The final lead came with 5:18 left to play when Gabbard struck again, scoring two of his 15 points on the night. A couple of made free throws from Creighton put the Banana Slugs up by seven with 10 seconds to play. Junior Jeff Kenney made two free throws with just over two seconds left to play, but the late push wasn't enough and the Panthers dropped the hard-fought game.
Smith led the Panthers on offense with 14 points, with Nelsen right behind him with 13. Gabbard was one rebound shy of tallying a double-double, as the senior scored 15 points and recorded nine rebounds.
Chapman heads to Miami, Fla. for a couple of games but returns to its home court to face Lewis & Clark on Thursday, Dec. 28 at 6 p.m.
by Katie Bell
Sports Information Assistant