Saddleback College, a team plagued by inconsistency much of this season, found some in a hurry Saturday night.
And once the Gauchos did, they turned a tight game into their widest margin of victory this season, beating Golden West, 101-70, in an Orange Empire Conference game in Mission Viejo.
The game was tied nine times in the early going. The last tie was at 28-28, before Saddleback took a 36-24 lead with 4 minutes 20 seconds left in the first half.
But the Gauchos (12-9, 3-2 in conference) obliterated Golden West the rest of the way.
It started when Saddleback went on a 12-2 run in the next four minutes and eventually lead at the break, 48-39.
Golden West was staggered by Saddleback’s burst at the end of the half, and was wiped out out by the rest of Saddleback’s performance.
The Gauchos, with the fast break working well, outscored Golden West, 53-31, in the second half.
Ray Ankton and Matt Thompson had consecutive steals and layups as Saddleback took a 62-43 lead with 14:51 left in the game.
Golden West then got its first consecutive baskets of the half to cut the lead to 62-47.
But Saddleback answered with a 13-0 run.
Ankton had seven points in the outburst, including a three-pointer when he pulled up off a break.
“We’ve been trying to get the fast break going all year,” Saddleback Coach Bill Brummel said. “We though if we ran we could wear them (the Rustlers) down. This was the best defense we played all year.”
Saddleback shot 51% (39 for 76), but made only four of 13 three-point attempts. The Gauchos also forced 24 turnovers.
Saddleback center Dee Boyer had 22 points to surpass his previous best by seven points. He made 11 of 13 field-goal attempts and added 13 rebounds.
Saddleback also showed balance as Patrick Brown, Kenny Caesar and Ankton scored 15 each. Matt Thompson had 13 and 12 rebounds.
Jason Vaughan had 18 points and 13 rebounds for the Rustlers, who lost their fourth straight. Scott Campbell added 12 but Golden West shot only 37% (30 of 82).
The Gauchos’ victory puts them in sole possession of third place in the conference, which is one game short of the halfway mark for every team except Golden West, which has a bye Wednesday.
Rancho Santiago, which was idle Saturday, leads at 5-0. Cypress (4-1) is second, Saddleback third, Riverside (2-3) fourth, Golden West (2-4) is fifth and Fullerton (1-4) and Orange Coast (1-4) are tied for sixth.
“Our team is struggling to play to its potential,” Brummel said. “But we can be an explosive team if the defense is there like it was tonight.”
In other Orange Empire Conference games:
Cypress 86, Orange Coast 56--Flip Banks came off the bench to score a game-high 18 points for host Cypress (17-8, 4-1). Brian Kenney and Eric Pauley each added 15 points for Cypress.
The Chargers made 61% of its field goals and held Orange Coast (10-12, 1-4) to only 30% shooting for the game.
Michael Wenzlaff scored 13 for Orange Coast.
Riverside 100, Fullerton 78--Fred Haygood scored 24 points for Riverside (15-11, 2-3) at Fullerton. Garry Hunter led all scorers with 26 points and Bob Terry scored 18 for host Fullerton (12-11, 1-4).
Fullerton trailed 54-35 at halftime and cut it to 71-65 with eight minutes left, but could get no closer.