LA VERNE, Calif. — Hakim Arnold had 27 points for the La Verne men's basketball team but the Leopards could not overcome an early deficit in a 96-88 loss to No. 8 Whitworth on Sunday afternoon at Sports Science and Athletic Pavilion.
The Pirates (6-1) blitzed the Leopards out of the gate, shooting 60.6 percent in the first half—including 9 of 13 from beyond the arc—to grab a 51-22 lead with 5:44 left in the first half.
Staring at what seemed like an insurmountable deficit, La Verne (5-2) then elected go small with five guards on the floor and that turned out to be the spark it needed as it closed the half on a 19-4 run trim the deficit to 13 points heading into halftime.
The Leopards came out of the break with the same five-guard lineup—Arnold, Khaneal Mason, Kendall McClain, Cruz Mertens and Anthony White—and continued to chip away at the lead. Mertens hit a pair of threes and White sank one to shave the lead down to single digit at 59-50. Mertens hit another 3-pointer from the left corner at the 12:03 mark to get the Leopards within 71-64.
But that was about as close as they would get as a handful of turnovers and missed layups stunted the momentum.
Arnold was 11 of 22 from the field with three rebounds and three assists. White had 13 points and eight rebounds. Mertens finished with 12 points on 4-of-9 shooting from long range off the bench.
Kenny Love and Christian Jurlina each scored 22 points to lead the Pirates. Drew Sears, Ben College and CJ Johnson contributed 10 points each.
The Leopards are back in action on Tuesday at home against Carthage.