The Saddleback men's basketball team picked up a win on Friday with a 70-52 victory at Santa Ana College. The Gauchos are 1.5 games back of Santiago Canyon College in the Orange Empire Conference with three games remaining on the schedule.
Saddleback knew that Friday night was no time to get careless, playing a Santa Ana team that entered with just eight wins on the season. The Gauchos took care of business with a big second half in remaining an arms-length behind the two teams in front of them in the standings. With the win, Saddleback is now one game behind second place Riverside City College, with the Tigers coming to town on Tuesday.
Saddleback trailed early on Friday as the offense struggled over the first 10 minutes of the game. The Gauchos took their first lead of the game at the 9:56 mark when Jay Norton drilled a three-pointer for a 14-13 lead. Saddleback would extend the lead to 19-13 on a three-pointer from Captain Whitlock with 8:40 remaining as part of an 8-0 run. The teams would remain close until there was three minutes remaining, when the Gauchos went on a 7-0 run to close out the half with a 31-25 lead. David Dial led the Saddleback with eight points at the intermission, with Whitlock finishing the half with seven.
Saddleback continued the 7-0 run to finish the opening half with an 8-0 run to start the second half in taking a 39-25 lead. The Gauchos had three-pointers from Whitlock and Nik Lipovic during the run, grabbing control of the game and never looking back. Saddleback would extend the lead to 17 points after Lipovic drained another from beyond the arc for a 47-30 lead. Four minutes later, Tristan Williams made a layup and the lead was 56-37 with 8:39 remaining in the game. The Gauchos would cruise the rest of the way, shooting 54% over the final 20 minutes while making 6-of-13 shots from long range.
Dial and Whitlock both finished with a team-leading 15 points apiece while Lipovic finished with 11 points of his own. The Gauchos had just four turnovers for the game, which was a season low after averaging 16.4 turnovers over the previous five outings.
Saddleback (17-8, 10-3) will host Riverside City College (16-9, 11-2) on Tuesday night with a chance to move into second place in the Orange Empire Conference. The Gauchos and Tigers are scheduled to tip off at 5:00 PM inside the Saddleback gymnasium.