The Saddleback men's basketball team remained in a tie for first place in the Orange Empire Conference after a 65-42 win over Cypress College on Friday night in Cypress. The Gaucho defense was stifling, allowing just 21 points in each half.
Saddleback has long been known as a defensive program that forces teams to play 40 minutes of muck and grind basketball. The Gauchos have taken it to a whole new level in 2016-17 and Cypress was the latest victim.
Saddleback held Cypress to 30% shooting for the game and the Chargers further hurt themselves by making only 10-of-19 free throws for the night. In addition, Saddleback's defense forced 19 turnovers and won the rebounding battle, 39-32. The combination spelled disaster for the Chargers, who fell behind early and never recovered.
Saddleback took a 3-2 lead when Nick Crankshaw buried a three-pointer with 17:42 remaining in the opening half. The game was tied two more times in the following minutes, but never again saw Cypress with an advantage on the scoreboard as the Gauchos ran away and hid.
Saddleback led 16-15 after Johnny Mims buried a three-pointer for Cypress at the 7:17 mark of the opening half. The Gauchos proceeded to score the next eight points as Colin Ferrier started to heat up. Ferrier nailed a long-range jumper for a 21-15 advantage with 6:11 remaining and on the next possession upped the lead to 23-15 with a jumper from 12-feet. Later in the half his two free throws put Saddleback up 26-16 with just over a minute remaining.
With Saddleback up 26-21 at the half, the Gauchos came out of the locker room and put the game out of reach. Crankshaw buried a jumper on the opening possession and Reggie Varner followed with a pair of free throws after getting fouled in the act of shooting. Ferrier buried yet another three-pointer with 18:07 remaining in the game and the lead was back to 10 at 33-23. The Gauchos would extend the lead to 13 when Jake Hawes drained a shot from long range with 15:41 remaining. Following a couple of baskets by Cypress, Hawes would connect again from long range and the mini-run by the Chargers was dead.
Saddleback would completely put the game out of reach at the midway point, holding Cypress scoreless for nearly five minutes as the lead grew to 23. The Gauchos would cruise the rest of the way, emptying out the bench to give the starters a rest.
Ferrier finished with a game-high and season-high 15 points on 4-of-8 shooting, making 3-of-5 from beyond the arc. The Gauchos also had a solid night at the free throw line, making 22-of-28 for the night.
Saddleback is now 23-3 overall and 9-1 in Orange Empire Conference play. The Gauchos are tied with Fullerton College atop the OEC standings with two games remaining on the schedule. Saddleback will host Santa Ana on Tuesday night at 5:00 PM and finish by hosting Fullerton on Thursday night at 5:00 PM.