ORANGE — Up by three with 55.3 seconds remaining against Colorado College, Sam Stapleton (Los Angeles) dribbled at the top of the key and gave swingman Kris Montoya (Portland, Ore.) a look, before threading the needle to Montoya for the backdoor layup to put his team up 75-70, the game-winning play.
After making free throws off of Colorado's last-chance fouls, the Occidental men's basketball team won their second consecutive game 81-73 at Chapman.
"We worked on that play all year," Montoya said. "Coach [Newhall] is always telling me to cut backdoor, and it worked out. We really battled, and honestly it was the best team win since I've been here at Oxy."
The junior scored 11 of his 31 points over the last 10 minutes of the game, getting to the cup whenever he chose a lane. His back-to-back layups with 5:12 remaining put the Tigers (4-6) up 70-63. Montoya was five points shy of matching his career-high.
"My teammates and coaches gave me confidence to keep attacking the gaps," Montoya said. "Then the court opened up for me and I was able to take advantage and find open teammates."
Ryan Chong (San Diego) was one such recipient. After a first half that looked more like a postgame box score with 19 points on a perfect 3-for-3 from beyond the arc and 7-7 from the field to go along with five steals, Chong gave his team the extra lift it needed after squandering a fifteen point advantage. He finished with a career-high 21 points.
By closing out on shooters and getting hands in the passing lanes, Oxy withstood the Colorado (4-5) comeback and forced 20 turnovers. Chong, whose family and friends filled up several rows in the stands, finished with seven steals.
"We worked on fly-by closeouts in practice over the last few days, and it helped us," Chong said. "We were really good on the press, and it was just a great team effort on defense."
Oxy held hot-shooting Colorado, who came into today's game shooting 37 percent from long distance, to 23.8 percent in the game and just 11.1 percent in the second half.
Stapleton, who totaled 33 minutes, played aggressive on-ball defense to speed up the play of Ryan Milne, who was just 4-for-14 from the field and 0-for-7 from three-point range.
Eight out of the 10 Oxy players who dressed scored at least once.
"Different people are stepping up each game," Occidental head coach Brian Newhall said. "Our guys trust each other and are doing an outstanding job of sharing the ball.
"I was happy with our unselfish play."
Colorado was led by Milne's 16 points, Chris Lesnansky's 22 points and Justin Berardino's had 18 points.
Oxy will play their second neutral-site game at Chapman tomorrow against UC Santa Cruz at 1 p.m.
Mirin Fader is the Oxy men's basketball beat writer. She also writes feature stories on Oxy athletes, coaches and alums. She is currently a Team Writer for the Los Angeles Clippers (Clippers.com), and also contributes articles to Dime Magazine (dimemag.com). This past summer, Mirin wrote for the WNBA's Los Angeles Sparks. All of her work, including her archived Oxy stories can be found at her website: mirinfader.com