The Saddleback men's basketball team rallied from a halftime deficit to defeat Cypress College, 89-63, in the Orange Empire Conference opener on Wednesday night in Cypress. The Gauchos went on a 43-6 run to start the second half, bolting past the Chargers for a 1-0 start in OEC play.
Saddleback looked sluggish in the opening half, falling behind 40-30 to a Cypress team that outscored them 20-3 in bench points. The only thing that kept the Gauchos in the game was the ability to get to the free throw line, making 13-of-20 in the opening frame.
Saddleback came out of the locker room with a different mindset, taking the game to the Chargers and outscoring them 9-0 in the first two minutes. The two teams then traded baskets before Saddleback went on its biggest run of the season, scoring 23 straight points in expanding the lead to 62-45 with 10:39 remaining in the contest. Following a free throw from Cypress, the Gauchos then scored the next 11 points to put the game out of reach. In total, Saddleback outscored Cypress 59-23 in the second half as Sean Birk, J.J. Overton and Shawn Stith all scored in double-figures in the second 20 minutes.
Saddleback finished 37-of-47 from the free throw line as the two teams combined for 55 fouls on the night. Three different Cypress players fouled out of the game while Saddleback finished with four different players having four fouls.
Overton led Saddleback with 23 points on the night while Stith (pictured) finished with 17 and Birk finished with 16. The Gauchos were 5-of-8 from three-point range in the second half, with Birk making 3-of-4 from beyond the arc.
Saddleback's 26-point win was the third largest margin of victory for the year. The 59-point half was the largest half in the past seven years since the scorekeeping went online with box scores. As a result, we are actively searching to find out the last time Saddleback scored 59-or-more points in a half. The school record for a half is 85 points, scored on two occasions (San Diego City 1977-78 & Southwestern 1979-80).
Saddleback is now 10-7 overall and 1-0 in Orange Empire Conference play. The Gauchos will look to add to a two-game winning streak on Friday night when they host Copper Mountain College. Game time is scheduled for 5:00 PM in the Saddleback Gymnasium.