COSTA MESA — Sometimes, Steve Spencer gets so caught up coaching his Orange Coast College men's basketball team, he forgets his own exceptions.
So it was with 9:00 left in his team's 85-63 trouncing of Orange Empire Conference visitor Santa Ana on Wednesday that the 11th-year Pirates head man confounded his own logic.
"Settle down! Settle down!" Spencer yelled from the bench as sophomore guard Will Ligon sped past in transition with the ball on his fingertips and a back-pedaling defender drifting into the lane.
Ligon said he heard his coach, but elected instead to heed the atypical green light granted him by Spencer, as he pulled up for a 15-foot jump shot that flowed through the net for two of his career-high 37 points.
"The guy was off me and I know I can make that shot," said Ligon, for whom there are few shots that create anything less than complete confidence. "I think [Spencer] trusts me in those situations."
Spencer later agreed that he had no quibble with Ligon's offensive appetite, which produced 21 points before halftime and concluded by scoring his team's final nine points.
"With a shooter like that, sometimes you have to give him a little freedom," Spencer said. "Sometimes, you just have to go with it."
Ligon, who had a career-high 30 in the Pirates' only other home game this season (a 64-57 win over Moorpark on Dec. 9), made 13 of 25 field-goal attempts against the Dons, including seven of 13 from three-point range.
Ligon's first-half explosion helped OCC (6-11, 1-1 in conference) build separate leads of 10 points in the middle of which Santa Ana (7-9, 1-2) used a 15-4 run to take a 21-20 advantage, its only lead of the night.
Utilizing its full-court pressure, frenetic zone and constantly changing defensive schemes, OCC managed to thoroughly frustrate the visitors.
Offensively, Ligon's ability to find shots, and his teammates' penchant for finding him open, was the leading component to the Pirates producing a season-best scoring output.
"I thought we played with a little more energy and enthusiasm and passion tonight," Spencer said. "I think the kids played hard tonight and everybody that played [all 14 players] contributed in some form or fashion."
As for the most noteworthy contribution, Spencer stated the obvious.
"Will can make some shots, man," Spencer said of the lithe, 6-foot-2 sophomore who averaged 5.2 points per game as a senior at Centennial High in Corona in 2009-10. "The guy can shoot the freakin' ball."
Spencer said Ligon was an under-the-radar guy coming out of high school, the kind of player OCC coaches regularly roll the dice with.
All Ligon has done since is score 734 points, connect on 147 three-pointers and up his scoring average this season to a conference-best 20.6.
Ligon helped OCC shoot 45.5% from the field and 47.8% from threedom (11 for 23), while Santa Ana shot 41.7% from the field.
OCC forced 20 turnovers, five more than it committed, to help overcome a 46-38 rebounding deficit accentuated by 6-5 freshman Ashton Coleman, who had 19 points and 17 rebounds for the Dons.
Freshman Zach Matar had 10 points and nine rebounds for the winners, who also benefited greatly from 5-9 freshman Frank Randall (seven points and six boards), as well as freshman reserves DJ Coleman (eight assists and four points in 16 minutes) and Leron Lacey (four points, four rebounds and a team-best three steals).
OCC never led by fewer than seven in the second half and earned its biggest lead, an 85-62 bulge, when Ligon sank a three-pointer with 49 seconds left.
Santa Ana was 11 of 25 from the foul line, while OCC converted 14 of its 19 free-throw attempts, all of which came in the second half.
Orange Empire Conference
Orange Coast 85, Santa Ana 63
SA – Coleman 19, Miller 0, K. Williams 2, Barlow 15, Ramirez 6, Collins 7, Clark 5, Twine 3, Carwile 3, B. Williams 2, Collins 1.
3-pt. goals – Clark 1, Collins 1.
Technicals – Armstrong 1.
OCC – Matar 10, Nelson 0, Ligon 37, Randall 7, T. Payne 3, Banks 7, Bell 7, Trinidad 6, Coleman 4, Lacey 4.
3-pt. goals – Ligon 7, Trinidad 2, Randall 1, T. Payne 1.
Technicals – None.
Halftime – 38-30, OCC.