Men's Basketball: Pirates come up short

COSTA MESA — There were fewer moving parts for the Orange Coast College men's basketball team Friday. But the margin for error in Coach Steve Spencer's organized mayhem remains unforgivingly small.

The result was a 76-64 loss to visiting Riverside in the Orange Empire Conference opener for both teams.


OCC, with a handful of players unavailable, including two key standouts, played only 11 players, about seven fewer than its typical rotation. And among the missing was leading scorer Marquis Ransom (14.2 points per game), who was dealing with the flu, and 6-foot-8 sophomore John Joyce, who could have come in handy against a long, quick, tenacious Riverside crew. Joyce, a Corona del Mar High product, is out with an Achilles problem.

The Pirates (9-7) were far from overwhelmed by the Tigers (11-5), who used a 13-0 run in the first half to turn a six-point deficit into a 29-22 advantage. During that stretch, OCC went 7:35 without a point. But the Pirates finished the half on a 7-2 run and were down, 31-29, entering the final 20 minutes.


OCC used its typically frenetic defensive pressure and some opportunistic offense to claim a 39-36 advantage with 16:17 left in the game. But a technical foul that came from some ruggedly physical play, helped Tigers convert six free throws to regain control.

OCC had one more surge in it, though, as the hosts reeled off five straight points, all from the foul line, to take a 43-42 lead with 12:53 left. But struggling to make shots consistently — the Pirates were 10 for 37 from the field in the second half (27%), including hitting just four of 17 from three-point range (23.5%) — prevented them from breaking a losing streak that is now three.

OCC went just shy of 11 minutes without a field goal in that second-half slump. It kept the margin respectable by draining four three-pointers and converting a traditional three-point play in the final 2:49.

"I think that the game was there for us to get, but we didn't execute, defensively in particular," Spencer said. "We gave up way too many layups. They're a physical inside team and we have to battle, but we didn't battle enough. Our rotations were slow and we didn't block out, so they just got layups and free throws. Our game plan was to make them beat us from the outside.


"We had wide-open shots and we didn't knock them down [finishing 22 for 66 from the field].

Spencer refused to use his limited roster as an excuse.

"It's just an intensity thing with us," Spencer said. "If we don't play hard and we don't play together, then we're not any good. We've got to play with a collective energy and it has got to be harder and higher than anybody. If we do that, we can compete with anybody. We didn't do that the last three games."

Freshman Spencer Poston led OCC with 16 points, connecting on six of 12 field-goal attempts, including his only three-point try. He also matched Jordan Pellum for the team rebounding lead with seven.

Freshman Chris Nelson added 11 points, four rebounds, three steals and two assists , while sophomore Robert Grepo had 11 points. Grepo was three for three from three-point range.

OCC was outrebounded, 47-33, as Riverside's 6-8 freshman Shannon Fowler had 20 points and 13 rebounds. Fowler made seven of 10 from the field, most of which were within arms length of the bucket.

OCC did win the turnover battle, forcing 21 and committing 15. Riverside made 25 of 37 free-throw attempts, while OCC was 13 of 19 from the line.



Orange Empire Conference

Riverside 76, Orange Coast 64

RCC – Rounds 5, Fowler 20, Ireland 16, Biddle 12, Lanier 4, Gonzalez 10, Schmidt 9.

3-pt. goals – Ireland 2, Schmidt 1 .

Fouled out – None.

Technicals – None.

OCC – C. Nelson 12, D. Nelson 5, Poston 16, Grepo 11, Trinidad 8, Kirschbaum 6, Pellum 3, Dunlap 3.

3-pt. goals – Grepo 3, Trinidad 2, D. Nelson 1, Poston 1.

Fouled out – None.

Technicals – Dunlap 1.

Halftime – RCC, 31-29.

Twitter: @BarryFaulkner5