Costa Mesa – Saddleback and Orange Coast College took the court Friday as two men’s basketball teams with losing records in a battle for bragging rights.
The match-up between the hosting Pirates (5-16, 1-3) and the Gauchos (9-14, 1-4) looked to be a close one until the second half rolled around.
With a 31-17 run, OCC turned the two-point game into a 72-56 blowout.
“We didn’t come out and play smart at all,” said Saddleback coach Nick Booker. “[OCC] did a good job of changing up defenses. We didn’t recognize those changes and settled for all outside jump-shots.”
In the first half, Saddleback shot 43 percent from the field, matching Orange Coast’s field goal percentage to stay within two points come the first half’s end.
Saddleback found the lane and scored many of its early points by penetrating to the basket and drawing fouls.
In the first half, the Gauchos shot 21 free throws, but they only shot 12 in the second half to finish with a mark of 73 percent from the stripe for the game.
But Saddleback finished the game with a complete lack of offensive execution.
The Gauchos struggled to move the ball and as forced many outside jumpers.
“[It was] a lack of [converted opportunities], and [for] some of our guys, lack of focus,” Booker said.
The Pirates’ suffocating defense limited the Gauchos to 22 percent shooting from the field in the second half.
The Gauchos also finished with 23 turnovers.
“I have to go back and watch film and really figure it out,” Booker said. “Really we didn’t follow the game-plan coming out at halftime. We’re real young. We’ve got to get better in the second half. We’ve struggled all year with that.”
OCC was led by Brian Gee, who finished with a game-high 19 points. Guard Shaun Engle, and Forward Brian Helmuth both scored 16.
Gauchos guards Reggie Patterson and Cornell Jenkins both finished with 10 points, but neither had a single assist.
Saddleback next hosts Irvine Valley College on Jan. 30 at 5:30 p.m.