MERCED — Westmont (10-3, 2-3 GSAC) snapped a three-game losing streak Monday as the Warriors defeated UC Merced (3-6) on the road by a score of 80-72.
After a 9-0 start, the Warriors stumbled by dropping three of their first-four games in December before Monday’s contest, but now officially collected their 10th win.
“This one was good to get, especially after finals week,” said Westmont head coach Landon Boucher. “Finals take a toll on Westmont students and student-athletes, and we have a lot of new guys that are going through it for the first time.
“We knew going on the road was going to be tough, and we let up a bit in the second half, but ultimately road wins are never easy, and we were happy to get this one.”
Ajay Singh led the club with 24 points, while Jalen Townsell added 17 points off the bench. Nate Meithoff contributed with 14 points as well, while Cade Roth recorded a double-double with 10 points and 10 assists.
“Jalen really powered us, especially in the first half,” noted Boucher. “We had 22 assists tonight, and Cade had 10 of them. We found each other for good shots, and that’s why we shot it so well, because we were making it easy on each other.
In the first half, the Warriors and the Bobcats traded points for the first 10 minutes of play, with UC Merced claiming an 18-14 lead with 12 minutes to play. Then, with 11:39 to play in the period, Townsell drained one of his three first-half 3-pointers to spark a Warrior run that put the club in the driver’s seat.
Townsell’s three ultimately sparked an 18-8 run that saw the club stretch its lead to double-digits with a little over five minutes to play in the half. A minute later, Townsell’s third triple of the half widened the lead to a half-high 39-24, but the Bobcats cut into the deficit going into intermission as the Warriors led 41-33.
Townsell led the club with 15 points on six of seven shooting during the first half, while Singh contributed with 10 points of his own.
In the second half, the Bobcats stayed within three possessions for the first handful of minutes, before the Warriors erupted for a 17-6 run in the middle part of the half, stretching their lead to a game-high 18 points at 69-51.
With 8:59 to play, and an 18-point lead, the Warriors went scoreless for more than five minutes, allowing UC Merced a chance to get back in the game. However, Westmont’s defense remained strong, and during the dry spell, only allowed the home club to pull within 10.
A jumper from Meithof ended the scoring drought with 3:35 to play, and Tyler Austin followed up Meithof’s jumper with his second 3-pointer in as many attempts, rebuilding Westmont’s lead to 15. Ultimately, the club fended off a last-minute run by Merced to win it 80-72.
“There’s a lot to learn from this game,” said Boucher, “but overall we’re celebrating the win on the way back from this road trip. It’s been a great first semester and it was really nice to wrap it up with this win.”
The club returns to action at 1 p.m. on Thursday, when the Warriors head to Malibu to take on Pepperdine in an exhibition.
Jacob Norling is the sports information assistant at Westmont College.