The Saddleback men's basketball team has had contributions from all over the roster through seven games and over the weekend showed a dominating presence inside in a 66-63 win at Mt. San Jacinto College. The Gauchos held a 28-6 advantage down low in improving to 6-1 on the year.
Saddleback has relied heavily on 7-footer Conor Clifford during the early part of the season but on Saturday it was Clifford's backup Kyle Hoag (pictured) who also played a big role. The two combined for 28 and 12 rebounds, with Hoag scoring 11 points and five rebounds off the bench.
The depth provided Saddleback with a huge advantage against an Eagle program that entered the game 4-2 and looking to put a great win on their resume.
Clifford finished with 17 points on 6-of-12 shooting, making good on 5-of-6 free throws. Hoag was 5-of-7 from the field while giving him a breather.
Saddleback jumped out to a 36-27 lead at the half and wasn't in danger of losing the game until Mt. San Jacinto made a late run. The Eagles made 12-of-13 free throws on the night but had a difficult time finding their range from the outside, making only 5-of-19 from three-point range. When they missed, Saddleback scooped up the rebounds, holding a 39-28 advantage on the glass for the night.
Saddleback had solid contributions from Maurice Jones (9 pts., 5 reb., 3 ass.), Andrew Bournes (7 pts., 8 reb.) and Collin Host (7 pts. 4 reb.) in improving to 6-1 on the season. The Gaucho start is impressive given they have played four games against teams ranked in the top eight in Southern California in the latest Coach's Association poll.
Saddleback enters the Palomar College Tournament on Friday ranked No. 4 in the state and No. 2 in Southern California. The Gauchos open the tournament against Los Angeles Harbor College (2-0) at 3:00 PM.