Saddleback College Men’s Basketball battles to be in first place in the Orange Empire Conference

Saddleback College Guard, David Dial leading a fast break. (Frank Rocha/Lariat)

Saddleback College        55  (10-4)

Riverside City College  65  (12-2)

The Saddleback College Men’s Basketball Team loses their chance at being in first place in the Orange Empire Conference on Tuesday night. The Gauchos were looking to be tied in second place in the OEC with their rivals for the night, Riverside City College Tigers. Saddleback College looked to finish off their last three games of the season on a high note.

“Tonight’s game didn’t go well,” said Andy Ground, Head Coach for the Gauchos. “They didn’t defend that well.”

The Gauchos for beginning of the first half led with 8-0 run, but quickly dwindled as the half progressively moved on. The Gauchos held the lead until the last two minutes of the half in which Tigers came back to take the lead. The Gauchos made a few baskets before the half came to a close leading to a tie, 30-30.

“They drove us and we couldn’t stay in front of them,” said Ground. “They got to the rim uncontested.”

The Tigers out rebounded the Gauchos, 38-27 and man-handled in the paint outscoring, 28-22. And Riverside capitalized on 2nd chance points, making 13 points off of mistakes.

“And one of their guys got really loose for 26-28 points,” said Ground. “It wasn’t a great night defensively for us.”

Saddleback College couldn’t stop the three-ball. Riverside City College, leading scorer for the night, Keylin Vance scored a career-high 29 points against the Gauchos. Also the Tigers were relentless at the 3-pt line. Making 46.7 shooting percentage from long range, 7-15. Compared to the Gauchos 22.2 shooting percentage, 4-18.

It was Vance and Amir Davis who rained on the Gauchos parade, scoring 48 points combined. And together had a 59 shooting percentage from the field, 19-32 and 54 shooting percentage from long range, 6-11.

The Gauchos couldn’t stop the Tigers from the field, even though Saddleback had some chances to come back in the second half by six points, but missed opportunities and turnovers late lead to their loss against the second place Tigers.

“We have to play a lot better to have a chance against Irvine Valley,” said Ground. “Our last two games are not going to be easy.”

The Gauchos have two games left for the season, playing Irvine Valley College on Feb. 19 at home. IVC got the best of Riverside City College in their previous game, which makes the Gauchos last two games a little interesting. And Saddleback College finishes their season away at Fullerton College.

The Gauchos still have a chance to be second in the OEC, but Saddleback College has to win the last two games and look for Riverside City College or Santiago Canyon College to earn some losses before the season comes to a close.