The Saddleback men's basketball improved to 7-1 in Orange Empire Conference play with a 69-51 win against Irvine Valley College on Friday night in the Saddleback Gymnasium. The Gauchos led from start to finish to remain within a half game of first place.
Saddleback was looking for sweet revenge on Friday night against their inner-district rivals after the Lasers upset them earlier in the season, giving the Gauchos their lone loss in conference play. Saddleback came out fast, jumping out to a lead and never looking back.
Saddleback took a 33-20 lead into the locker rooms at halftime, thanks in large part to some stifling defense. The Gauchos held Irvine Valley to just 29.6% shooting in the opening frame, including 0-for-8 shooting from three-point range. Shawn Stith scored nine points and J.J. Overton eight in the opening 20 minutes as Saddleback forced six turnovers while enjoying a 17-12 advantage in rebounds.
The second half had a similar feel as Saddleback had a big advantage inside with Stith and Arash Poorsina. The duo combined for 17 points and 10 rebounds in the second half as the Gauchos eventually stretched the lead to 20 points. Irvine Valley would make a late run to get the lead down to 11, but with only 1:33 remaining on the clock the advantage was never in jeopardy.
Stith finished with a game-high 22 points, also collecting seven rebounds. He was 12-of-13 from the free throw line as Saddleback made 30-of-39 shots from the charity stripe. Irvine Valley received 14 points from Sadiq Muhammad in a losing effort.
Saddleback is now 16-8 overall and 7-1 in Orange Empire Conference play following the win. The Gauchos are a half game back of Fullerton College in the OEC standings with four games remaining. Saddleback will look to keep pace with the Hornets when they travel to Santiago Canyon College for a game next Wednesday night. The Gauchos and Hawks are scheduled to tip off at 6:00 PM in Orange.