Following a double-digit loss against Whitworth in their previous game, the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps men’s basketball team again found themselves trailing big towards the end of the first half versus Linfield. While the Stags hardly remained afloat with a stagnant offense, the Wildcats had ballooned their lead to 19 points with three minutes remaining.
But a 11-0 spark from the Stags in the dying minutes of the first half instantly shifted the momentum of the game, cutting the Wildcats’ lead to single digits. Riding this trend, CMS outscored Linfield by 15 points in the second half to complete the comeback, winning 79-72.
Already off to a career year, veteran forward TJ Askew CM ’22 scored a career-high 23 points and also boasted an impressive all-around game, including seven rebounds, two assists and two blocks. Another standout performance came from guard Josh Angle CM ’23, scoring 17 of his 21 overall points in the second half to lead the comeback.
The match began with a tight defensive battle, with both teams going on mini scoring runs and earning multiple defensive stops. Featuring three lead changes and ties within the opening seven minutes of the period, CMS and Linfield were knotted at 12 apiece after forward Kiran Kruse CM ’23 swiped two consecutive steals off Wildcat players.
Linfield began to separate from CMS by slashing to the rim, capitalizing on numerous layup scoring opportunities around the paint. Meanwhile, the Stags went on a cold offensive streak, missing seven consecutive field goal attempts from all over the court.
Growing a 12-point lead with six minutes remaining in the quarter, the Wildcats continued their dominant offensive stretch, while the Stags couldn’t buy a bucket. Following three three-pointers from Linfield perimeter players and trivial answers from the CMS offense, the Stags dug themselves into a 19-point hole and surrendered a 26-7 scoring run overall.
But immediately after this scoring drought, the Stags quickly bounced back in resilient fashion. Capitalizing on careless turnovers and numerous field goal attempt misses from Linfield, CMS began utilizing fast break opportunities and crashed the boards to earn multiple scores close to the rim, rapidly cutting the deficit to eight points to end the first half.
The start of the final 20 minutes served similar to the game’s beginning, with both teams exchanging baskets and defensive boards. CMS failed to cut into the deficit within the early stretches of the second half, only being able to get as close as six points.
After trading blow for blow, Angle began heating up from the floor and connected on three consecutive three-pointers on back-to-back possessions. Capitalizing on three careless turnovers from Linfield, the Stags finally grabbed their first lead of the game since the opening two minutes.
Following this scoring surge, CMS continued to maintain its slim lead until the midway point of the second half, when they again began trading baskets in a back-and-forth affair with Linfield. The Stags finally broke away from the Wildcats after rookie forward Matt Meredith CM ’25 staged a 5-0 scoring run of his own, building a seven-point CMS lead.
Linfield instantly responded on the offensive end and remained within striking distance of CMS, refusing to let the lead grow more than five points. Despite three consecutive two-point baskets from Angle that grew the Stags’ lead to nine, the Wildcats bounced back with two three-pointers of their own to cut the lead back to three.
After the series of back-and-forth runs, a Linfield defender made a costly error by fouling Askew off of a three-point attempt. Knocking all three of his free throws down with total control, the veteran forward stopped the Wildcats’ momentum and iced the game.
In Wednesday’s SCIAC opener, CMS shut down La Verne for a standout 81-58 win.
With an impressive 4-1 start to their year, the Stags will next participate in a Sixth Street Rivalry double header on Saturday, facing the Pomona-Pitzer men at 5 p.m. before the Athenas and Sagehens battle at 7 p.m.