Furious Comeback Effort Comes up Short as CMS Men's Basketball Falls at Occidental

Mitchell Kirsch had 17 of his 18 points in the second half (photo by Daniel Addison)
Mitchell Kirsch had 17 of his 18 points in the second half (photo by Daniel Addison)

LOS ANGELES - Senior forward Maxwell Kirsch scored the first 11 points of an 18-0 second-half run that helped the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps men's basketball team cut a 21-point deficit down to three, but Occidental was able to hold off the challenge and come away with a 58-49 win on Wednesday evening at Rush Gymnasium.

With the loss, CMS slips to 17-5 overall and 9-4 in the SCIAC, falling out of a first-place tie with Pomona-Pitzer and into a three-way tie for second in the loss column with Occidental and Redlands. Occidental improves to 14-5 overall and 8-4 in the SCIAC with the win and splits the season series with the Stags, who won the first meeting in Claremont. 

Nothing went right for CMS in the first half, as they shot just 5-23 from the floor and trailed 35-16 at the half after the Tigers closed on an 11-0 run. Occidental opened the second half with a basket to take their largest lead of the game at 37-16, before Kirsch singlehandedly brought the Stags back in it, scoring 17 of his team-high 18 points after halftime.  

Kirsch hit a three-pointer at the 18:57 mark, knocked down a jumper with 18:14 to go, hit another three-pointer with 17:18 left, and had an old-fashioned three-point play with 16:34 left to conclude a personal 11-0 run that took the 21-point Occidental lead down to 10. He then passed the baton to his teammates, as senior forward George Walker scored on a feed from first-year guard Brian Kenyon, senior guard JD Levine knocked down a jumper, and first-year guard Josh Angle buried a three-pointer with 12:40 left to suddenly get the Stags back within 37-34 with a lot of time still remaining.  

Caleb Yellin-Flaherty ended the drought for Occidental with a layup, before Kirsch hit two foul shots to cut the Tiger lead to 40-36 with 10:30 left. Occidental scored five straight points to get the lead to nine, but Kirsch again answered the call with a jumper with 7:40 to go to cut the lead to seven, and a jumper from senior guard Miles President had the Stags within 49-44 with 2:57 left. 

Jacob Adler, though, was fouled shooting a three for the Tigers and made all three to make it a 52-44 lead. Walker had a tip-in with 1:19 left to cut it to six, but Yellin-Flaherty made a clutch jumper at the end of the shot clock and added another basket off a press break to seal it. 

Adler finished with 20 points to lead the Tigers, who turned the ball over only nine times and forced the Stags into 20 on the day, 14 coming via steals. Kirsch was the only Stag in double figures in scoring, while Walker had nine points and a team-high eight rebounds off the bench. 

CMS will be back in action next Wednesday for its regular season home finale against Redlands, beginning at 7 p.m. It will also be Senior Day for the program's six seniors: Kirsch, President, Levine, Walker, Jeremy Horn and Kele Mkpado