LOS ANGELES — Cruz Mertens sank two huge 3-pointers in the overtime to lift the University of La Verne men's basketball team to a 74-72 win over Occidental on Wednesday night at Rush Gymnasium.
Mertens opened the scoring in the extra time with a shot from the left corner, made another from straight away to give the Leopards a 74-70 lead and the Leopards held on for the win.
The Tigers had a good look at the end. Mertens missed a free throw that would've put the Leopards up by at least three points and Jay Miller took it all the way for what looked to be an easy layup. But he somehow missed and the ensuing tip-in by Andrew Johnson rimmed out as time expired.
La Verne improves to 8-8 overall and 6-2 in SCIAC play. Oxy falls to 10-6 and 4-4.
Oxy had several chances to put it away late in regulation but couldn't convert its free throws. Johnson missed a go-ahead free throw with 2.3 seconds left but Miller came down with the offensive rebound and got fouled on his way down. Then the Leopards got another break as he missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 1.3 seconds left.
Mertens finished with 12 points, five rebounds and three steals. Hakim Arnold posted a double-double, scoring 14 points and grabbing 11 rebounds, and Nicholas Lewis chipped in 16 points off the bench. Connor Head had 14 points and four rebounds.
Oxy had a 42-33 lead at halftime but Jordan Stokes sparked a 15-2 run with a couple jump hooks and two big blocks on Johnson to help the Leopards to a 48-44 lead.
Johnson did all he could to lead the Tigers. The forward put up a career-high 35 points, making a shot after tough shot, and pulled down nine rebounds. But he went cold in the overtime, going 1-for-5.
Miller finished with 19 points and four rebounds.
The Leopards are back in action on Friday at UC Santa Cruz.