The Saddleback men's basketball team opened up Orange Empire Conference play with a 54-43 win against Cypress College on Wednesday night in the Saddleback Gymnasium. The Gauchos had a big second half in pulling away from the Chargers.
Saddleback and Cypress were both painfully cold in the first half, as neither team could find any rhythm on offense and combining for just 27 points over the first 20 minutes. The two squads were tied 2-2 with just over 12 minutes remaining in the opening half before setting into a free throw contest over the final 12 minutes. The Chargers carried a 14-13 lead into the locker room in what was the lowest scoring half in decades. Saddleback trailed 14-9 on the scoreboard with under two minutes remaining in the half before Keegan Cummins made four straight free throws to get the Gauchos within one point.
It was just the start of things for Saddleback, who recognized a big size advantage and took advantage of it in the second half. Dillon Waikle drove to the basket and scored in the opening possession of the second frame as the Gauchos grabbed their first lead since the 12:15 mark of the first half at 15-14.
Saddleback trailed 20-19 with just under 15 minutes remaining when Captain Whitlock made a layup for a 21-20 lead. Cypress would never see the lead again as the Gauchos distanced themselves from Cypress over the final 10 minutes in walking away with the win.
After shooting just 20% in the opening half, Saddleback heated up in the second half in shooting 56% from the field. The Gauchos had a balanced attack, with David Dial scoring a team-high nine points in the final 20 minutes while Cummins and Whitlock added seven points apiece. Saddleback took its biggest lead of the game at 47-31 when Dial converted a three-point play with 3:59 remaining on the clock.
Cummins finished with a game-high 14 points, making 4-of-6 from the field while leading both teams with 11 rebounds. The Gauchos also took advantage of ice cold shooting from the Chargers at the free throw line. Cypress made just 10-of-22 from the charity stripe, further stifling their attack.
Saddleback is now 7-5 overall and 1-0 in OEC play following the win. The Gauchos will look for a second straight win on Friday when they travel to Golden West College to take on the Rustlers at 1:00 PM.