After a slow start, the Westmont men’s basketball team kicked it into gear to run away with a 93-70 victory over Life Pacific on Tuesday night at Murchison Gym.
The Warriors of Westmont — the Life Pacific team is also the Warriors — trailed 15-9 before exploding on a 16-0 run that was fueled by 10 points from junior guard Abram Carrasco.
Westmont, which improved to 24-2 overall and 13-1 in the Golden State Athletic Conference, held on to its three-game lead for first place in conference.
“When we went to a zone (defense), I think we held them scoreless for nine possessions in a row,” Warriors coach John Moore said. “I thought (assistant coach) Jeff Azain did a really good job calling out our zone.”
The Warriors played without sophomore forward Cade Roth, who suffered a serious knee injury in Westmont’s previous game on Saturday.
Moore was pleased with how his team played without Roth, who has been a big contributor to the team’s success this season.
“It just takes a little bit of time to get used to playing without Cade Roth,” Moore said. “Cade Roth does so many things out there, and we were just not accustomed to playing without him.”
Carrasco had another stellar game.
He finished with 23 points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals to help lead the Warriors to their seventh straight victory. Carrasco didn’t perform up to his expectations on Saturday due to early foul trouble. This time he stayed away from the referee’s whistle long enough to run roughshod over the other Warriors.
“I felt great,” Carrasco said. “I didn’t really feel like it was a bounce-back type game for me, but I just really wanted to get back to my normal self after the last game in foul trouble.
“I thought I was about to start that again with the first offensive foul that I got. I told myself, ‘I’ve got to chill out.’ Fortunately, I was able to do that and it just felt really good out there tonight.”
Carrasco was asked about playing against Life Pacific, which has really struggled this season with a 6-17 overall mark and a 2-11 record in the GSAC.
“When we play teams that maybe aren’t as good as us, or whatever the case is, we don’t really change our mentality,” he said. “We always try to treat them like they’re The Master’s (College) or one of the other top teams in the conference.
“I don’t think we had as much energy in the first half, but I think once we got into a little rhythm, everything just clicked from there like always.”
After senior center Justin Bessard made a pair of free throws during the 16-0 run that gave Westmont a 17-15 lead, the Warriors never trailed again.
Bessard had another solid game with 16 points and six rebounds, but he failed to pull down a rebound in the first half. It marked the first time this season that Bessard had not had at least one rebound in a half.
“If he gets four rebounds in the first half, he’s got a double-double,” Moore said of his talented big man. “I thought he did a nice job rebounding in the second half, especially at the offensive end (where he had four).
“I think when Abram plays well, it just lights a fire in JB, as well.”
Moore was also pleased with the performance of junior guard Gyse Hulsebosch, who came off the bench to score 11 points.
Hulsebosch had three 3-pointers that were all well behind the arc.
“He can comfortably hit 28-footers,” Moore said. “In the national tournament last year he led us in scoring (in a game) with 23 points, and I think probably three or four of his 3-pointers were at least 25-footers.”
Moore also sang the praises of Carrasco, as he does after most Westmont games.
“He knows the big moment,” the Warriors 27th-year coach said. “He knows how to play in the big moment, and there’s no moment that’s too big for him.”
Junior guard Hunter Sipe had 15 points and freshman guard Jarred Brown finished with 10 to round out Westmont’s double-figure scorers.
The Warriors finished 31 of 66 (47%) from the field, 13-for-31 (41.9%) from 3-point range and 18 of 21 (85.7%) from the free-throw line. Westmont also forced 22 Life Pacific turnovers, and outscored the Warriors, 32-7, in points off of turnovers. Westmont committed 13 turnovers.