Abram Carrasco’s career night on Wednesday led to the first basketball victory of Landon Boucher’s Westmont College coaching career.
Carrasco scored 36 points to lead the Warriors past Saint Katherine, 117-103, at Murchison Gym.
The 117-point team total is the fifth-most in Westmont history.
Boucher, who played for the Warriors during the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons, served as an assistant coach last year before taking over for long-time head coach John Moore.
“It’s not really about me. It’s about our team,” Boucher said. “In all honesty, I’m more happy for our team to get a win.”
Carrasco, a senior guard who earned NAIA All-America honors last year, made 13-of-18 shots including 2-of-4 from three-point range and 8-of-10 free throws. He also handed out eight assists and grabbed five rebounds.
His previous best of 31 points came last year against William Jessup. But he made only 3-of-12 shots on Tuesday in Westmont’s first game in five weeks — an 86-81 loss to Saint Katherine.
“I think he was disappointed in his effort yesterday and he was really locked in today, ready to go from the tip,” Boucher said.
Carrasco’s 36 points were the most by a Westmont player since Boucher’s teammate, Preston Branson, netted 40 in December of 2010.
Ajay Singh added 17 points for Westmont (1-2), Jared Brown scored 16, and Cade Roth contributed 11. The Warriors shot 64.4% overall (38-59), 60% from three (15-for-25), and 86.7% from the free-throw line (26-30).
“I liked how we were passing the ball,” Boucher said. “We were really unselfish. Bram had eight assists and as a team we had 18 assists.
“We were moving the ball, making smart decisions and finding the open man.”
Saint Katherine (2-1) also shot well, making 47.4% from the field, 47.5% from three, and 90.5% from the foul line. The Firebirds actually took a 14-13 lead before Carrasco erupted with nine points during a 16-2 run which turned the deficit into a 29-16 lead.
“I think from the sick feeling in our stomachs from yesterday, it was easy to get our engines going,” Boucher said.
Westmont’s margin grew to 22 points, 49-27, after a pair of threes by Roth and one apiece by Noah Fernando and Brown.
Carrasco reached 23 points on a three of his own with 2:47 still left in the first half.
The Firebirds trimmed seven points off the Warriors’ lead, 54-39, with a run in the final 2:19 of the period. They resumed their comeback to start the second half, drawing as close as 58-47.
But Singh’s three from the corner triggered a 25-6 spurt for Westmont that put the game away for good. Five different Warriors made threes in the outburst as they extended their lead to 83-53 with 11:42 still remaining in the game.
Boucher said Westmont’s defense was actually a major factor in the run.
“When we decide to play defense, it’s easier to get in rhythm offensively, especially for us,” he said. “Our team plays its best when we’re scoring, but we have to make sure we’re playing defense to get our offense going.”
He wasn’t happy, however, with Saint Katherine’s late surge. Former Santa Barbara High star Johnnie Coleman entered the game for the first time in the second half and led a 64-point second half for the Firebirds by scoring 13 points on 5-for-6 shooting.
“As nice as the win was, it kind of left a sour taste in our mouths because we let down,” Boucher said. “We acted like there were 30 seconds left when there were still five-and-a-half minutes.”
Westmont won’t play again until Feb. 9 when Bethesda visits Murchison Gym for a 4 p.m. game.
“Everybody keeps saying how we have the same team back from last year, but it’s a new year and it’s an unusual year,” Boucher said. “It’s not the same team because we lost an all-conference player in Justin Bessard. It’s a new coaching staff.
“We’re just trying to figure out who we are as a team and how we play together as a team, offensively but more important defensively.”