In his final regular season Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference game Connor Whitman played all 40 minutes, turning in a 27-point performance to lead the Tigers to a 67-57 victory over the University of La Verne Tuesday, clinching their second consecutive SCIAC Championship.
No. 24-ranked Occidental took a 5-2 lead on Whitman’s first three-pointer of the night and never trailed in the final regular season game of 2008, finishing with a 21-4 overall record, 11-3 SCIAC. Although Oxy and Cal Lutheran finished with identical conference records, the Tigers claim the title having defeated the Kingsmen in both regular season meetings.
Both the men’s and women’s basketball teams won conference championships this year – the first time in 28 years that both have finished atop the SCIAC standings.
Oxy is one of four teams advancing to the first-ever SCIAC Post-Season Tournament. As the first-seeded team, the Tigers will host Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (14-11, 8-6) on Friday, Feb 29 at 7:30 p.m. in Rush Gymnasium. Second-seeded Cal Lutheran will host Pomona-Pitzer (13-12, 8-6) in the other semi-final game.
Against La Verne, Whitman led the Tigers to a 36-26 advantage at the break with 4-for-5 shooting from the field, hitting all four shots from beyond the arc and adding three assists.
The Leopards battled back in the second half, using a three-pointer from Drew Terry to pull the game to 44-43 with 12:51 to play. But three minutes later the Tigers went on a 12-2 run, pushing the score to 58-47. Senior forward Chris Pitcher scored back-to-back buckets, opening the largest margin of the half at 62-50.
Occidental was 5-for-6 from the line in the last 50 seconds of the game, and the miss turned into an offensive rebound for Pitcher. Whitman scored the final four points to nail down the victory for Oxy.
Whitman’s 27 points was a game high, while Terry was the leading ULV scorer with 20. Pitcher led all players with four assists while senior guard Gemayal McBride accounted for three. Sophomore transfer Sean Anderson scored 13 points and led all players with 11 rebounds to complete his sixth double-double of the season.
Occidental out-rebounded La Verne by a 38-36 margin in the second period after the Leos held the lead at the half (18-14). The Leopards finished with 13 offensive boards, three more than Oxy. Junior guard Huston Conti and Pitcher each finished with seven rebounds. Conti also had three steals.
The Tigers shot 46.2 percent from the field overall, finishing with an outstanding 69.2 three-point field goal percentage on the night.
The defense held the Leopards to a 31 field goal percentage in the opening period and limited ULV to 9-for-29 shooting. In the second half the Leos were 5-for-16 from three-point range after making just 2-for-7 in the opening period.