C.J. Miller poured in career high 27 points and pulled down seven rebounds to help lead No. 21 Westmont Men’s Basketball to an 88-82 victory over Fresno Pacific (14-15, 5-12 GSAC) on Tuesday night in Murchison Gymnasium.
As a result of the victory, Westmont stands in a four-way tie for second place in the Golden State Athletic Conference standings with Azusa Pacific, Biola and Point Loma Nazarene.
“It is great to be back in the winner’s circle,” said Westmont head coach John Moore. “We needed this to be back in the hunt. It was great to play as well as we did against their zone. They have a very tough zone. In the first half we shot it really well, in the second half we executed particularly well – moving the ball and getting it in the right people’s hands.”
The start of the game was delayed past the customary 7:30 start time to allow the Westmont Women’s Basketball team an opportunity to cut down the nets after clinching the GSAC regular season championship with an 86-66 win against Fresno Pacific.
“As a men’s basketball program, we are delighted and enthusiastically pleased with the success of our women,” said Moore. “It was such a great way to top off a fantastic season. I am really happy for (head coach) Kirsten (Moore) and (assistant coach) Selena (Ho) and all the players. It is important for people to understand how much our programs are connected. There is a lot of good will between our two programs.”
Once the game started, Westmont came out on fire, making 10 of 19 attempts from beyond the arc. The Warriors led at halftime 38-29, with all but eight of their points coming as the result of three-point shots.
Asked if the number of three-point shots was a concern at halftime, Moore replied, “You have to be careful when you are shooting that well. You don’t want to tell (the players) not to shoot from the three-point line when you are shooting better than 50 percent from there in the first half. But we also felt as though it was important to get the ball moving and get it inside, then to the baseline, and then to the middle of the floor – reversing the ball from side to side. I thought we did an outstanding job of that and that was without our two captains on the court. It was the C.J. Miller, Landon Boucher, Brendan Hill and Jordan Sachs show. Those guys did a really nice job of helping us get to an 18-point lead in the second half.”
In fact, the Warriors only took eight shots from beyond the arc in the second half. Instead, they took advantage of a Fresno Pacific defense that had to open up to try to stop the Warriors’ earlier three-point success.
“We shot 60 percent in the second half and only missed nine shots,” said Moore. “We got to the free throw line 24 times in the second half after only going two for two in the first half. It is hard to get to the free throw line against zones and we had 24 free throws against the zone.
“C.J. scored 21 in the second half,” noted Moore. “The shots he made were rhythm shots. He allowed the game to come to him. He didn’t force anything, but he was very poised out there. He looked like one of the best players in the league tonight.
“Landon (Boucher) played a very nice game, and not just from the three-point line,” observed Moore. “The other two shots that he made were clutch shots at key times in the game.”
Boucher scored 18 points for the Warriors while Preston Branson added another 17.
On Saturday, the Warriors will close out the GSAC regular season playing against the same team that they started the season with – Azusa Pacific.
“It feels like we played them about four seasons ago,” said Moore. “We are a different team. They are a different team. Both teams are much better. It will be a great opportunity for us to go there and play against a team we haven’t beaten in a while. As we said months ago, it is going to come down to that game.”
The winner of Saturday’s contest will guarantee themselves at least a share of second place and a home game in the opening round of the GSAC Tournament, which begins on Thursday, March 1. The loser may drop to fifth place in the conference standings and may be forced to play the opening round on the road. Tip-off for the showdown is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at Azusa Pacific.