Rockne Roll/News-Register##
Kyle Maloof of Linfield (22) looks to post up an opponent in the Wildcats’ game against LaVerne on Saturday, Dec. 10, at Ted Wilson Gymnasium in McMinnville.
Rockne Roll/News-Register## Kyle Maloof of Linfield (22) looks to post up an opponent in the Wildcats’ game against LaVerne on Saturday, Dec. 10, at Ted Wilson Gymnasium in McMinnville.
Rockne Roll/News-Register##
Linfield s Tyler Watts take the ball strong to the hoop in the game against LaVerne. The  Cats rally fell short as they lost 87-80.
Rockne Roll/News-Register## Linfield's Tyler Watts take the ball strong to the hoop in the game against LaVerne. The 'Cats rally fell short as they lost 87-80.
By Logan Brandon • Logan Brandon • 

Wildcat start cold, but rally falls short, lose to La Verne

 

Following Linfield’s 87-80 loss Saturday to the University of La Verne, Wildcats’ head coach Shanan Rosenberg’s primary concern centered on his team lacking early energy. In the first half, the ‘Cats fell behind by double-digits as a result of poor shooting and a dearth of defensive stops.

“When the game started, unfortunately, I don’t think we were as locked in and energetic defensively as we usually are,” said Rosenberg. “We got punched in the mouth early, and that kind of woke us up. Once we started defending, it led to better offense.”

During the first eight minutes, the Leopards tried their best to exile Linfield players from their own gym. Frosty shooting for the home team and seven made threes for La Verne resulted in a daunting 26-8 deficit for the ‘Cats.

However, Linfield retaliated. Eleven minutes in, Vince Romeo led an awe-inspiring run. First, he drove into the paint, finishing with an eight-foot floater. A minute later, he drilled a left-side three, slicing the Leopard lead to 27-17.

As Romeo heated up, the defense suddenly found its focus. Two consecutive drawn charges tamed the Leopard offense.

“When our energy came up defensively, it led to a livelier offense. We got into a better rhythm and flow offensively, and that almost always starts with our defense,” noted Rosenberg.

With the extra possessions, Linfield’s subpar field goal percentage wasn’t a significant detriment. Kyle Maloof buried a three with 6:42 left, and Negasi Hart drove the lane for a tough two points. The 16-5 run officially ended on La Verne guard Brandon Rice’s contested jump shot.

As the half closed, Jordan Clark trimmed the Leopards’ lead to 35-32 with a powerful inside finish and subsequent free-throw. The Wildcats, down only three, seized momentum heading into the half.

Linfield would grab its first advantage of the day on Maloof’s no-hesitation long-range snipe at the 16:03 mark. The teams would trade buckets until Hart’s reverse lay-up with 13 minutes remaining hand-delivered the ‘Cats their largest lead at 47-43.

Unfortunately for the home side, their frigid shooting persisted late into the match. La Verne, conversely, maintained an effective 52% from the field, and slowly retook the lead and momentum with 8:48 left.

The ‘Cats would close to 62-59 as Hart slashed to the cup and Riley Bruil landed a pair of technical free-throws. Once again, the Leopards drained outside attempts and got to the foul-line to keep Linfield at bay.

Bruil scored a three with 2:45 on the clock, drawing his team within four. Both teams began swapping trips to the line, but La Verne preserved comfortable five, six and seven point leads until the final buzzer. Ultimately, Linfield’s ineffectual shooting from the arc (8-27) disallowed it from climbing back into the contest.

Speaking about the poor outside shooting, Rosenberg said, “We’ve been pretty good (shooting the three). We usually don’t take that many attempts, it’s kind of skewed because of the end of the game. We just weren’t getting enough inside production, and so we were out of balance offensively.”

The Wildcats received balanced scoring from Maloof (18 points), Bruil (16 points), Hart (15 points) and Romeo (15 points).

Linfield remains at home for its next competition. Tomorrow, the ‘Cats welcome Caltech to Ted Wilson Gymnasium for a 7 p.m. tip-off.

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