Coming into last week, the Saddleback College Men’s basketball team was holding steady at the No. 3 ranking in state and was on a 16-game winning streak. However, the team’s trip to Riverside on Jan. 28 would change at least one of those. The Gauchos came out aggressive early against the No. 16 Tigers and held an early lead in this ranked Orange Empire Conference road test. Saddleback’s lead, which would reach as high as seven points, could not be sustained however. The Gauchos would eventually lose the lead, but not at the fault of their offense.
Offensive stars Kevin Menner and Franklin Session led the Gauchos with 20 and 18 points, respectively, and Saddleback as a team shot 52 percent from field. The overall undoing of the Gauchos would be at the fault of their perimeter defense and their ball security. Riverside guard Robbie Robertson shot three-for-five from behind the three-point line and earned 20 points overall. The rest of his teammates followed stinging the Gauchos for 44 percent shooting from behind the arc. Saddleback would only shoot for 25 percent on their three-point attempts. Turnover trouble was another killer for Saddleback. The Gauchos turned the ball over 21 times, while only taking it away from the Tigers 12 times. These were both killer factors in what would end up as a 71-51 defeat in the Gauchos’ first conference loss.
As aforementioned, Menner and Session led the Gauchos offensively in points. Session would also haul in seven rebounds, and Menner would bring down four. Saddleback would get a quick chance to redeem themselves from their loss on Jan. 30 in Santa Ana. The Gauchos’ offensive and defensive units would switch stories from their last game. As a team, Saddleback would only shoot 34 percent from the field and a combined 11-for-33 from the free-throw line. It was the defense that would take the reigns for the Gauchos.
Saddleback held the Dons to only 32 percent shooting from the field and 1-for-11 behind the three-point arc. The Gauchos juxtaposed their great perimeter defense in this game with their one real offensive bright spot, their three-point shooting. Saddleback shot 7-for-19 from three-point range to help put them over the top in a close 54-50 victory.
Kevin Menner led the Gauchos in points with 15, and Franklin Session took command of the boards with 11 rebounds. Kyle Wallace had a big defensive effort that resulted in three steals to his credit.
Saddleback ended the week with a one win and one loss. Although their winning streak is snapped, the Gauchos are still tied for the top spot in the OEC with 6-1 conference record and a 21-6 overall record.
The Gauchos will get today off before returning to their home court on Friday at 5:30 p.m. for a match against the Orange Coast College Pirates.