FULLERTON, Calif. – When Menlo College Men's basketball takes the floor against any opponent, it's a pretty safe bet the contest is going to come down to the final minutes. Thursday night's Golden State Athletic Conference match against RV Hope International University was no exception, with the night highlighted by poor shooting, good defense, and a ton of rebounds. Unfortunately for the visiting Oaks, it would be the home Royals that came out on the winning side. After closing a double-digit deficit down to just two points, Menlo could not hit the game-tying shot and Hope International iced the game away with free throws. When all was said and done, the Royals earned the victory by a final of 60-54. The Royals are 13-5 (4-2) on the season while Menlo drops to 9-8 (2-3).
When looking for individual scorers who stood out on this night, it is hard to imagine how anyone got the hot hand after the way the game started. Halfway through the first half, there were just 20 total points scored, with the Royals up 12-8 That's when the light switch went on for the Menlo offense, and the Oaks rattled off 12 consecutive points. Jared Wall was the human highlight reel as he so often is, with a layup and back-to-back three-pointers to cap off the 12-0 run. Suddenly Menlo had a 6-point lead over the Royals, but it would not last long as Hope International gradually chipped away at the deficit throughout the remainder of the first half. Taking the lead with 2:38 left in the half, the Royals stretched it to 5 points at the intermission, leading 31-26
Within the first four minutes and change in the second half, the Royals came out an energized bunch and it was clear they were looking to put this game away. A 13-4 run was put on the board by Hope International, and Menlo was staring down a 14-point deficit. Did this deter Menlo? Of course not, they routinely know how to come from behind. And sure enough, they did. As time was drawing to a close in the second half, Wall came back with consecutive points on four possessions, John Paine added a layup and so too did Jeremiah Testa, and the Oaks were within two points with 2:32 left in the game. The problem? Menlo did not score again after Testa's bucket with 2:32 in the game. Four Royal free throws were all that remained as far as scoring is concerned, and the 60-54 victory was complete for Hope International.
It was a poor shooting night for both sides, especially when you consider that both teams shot 34% from the field, and under 27% from three-point range. That did not stop Wall from having a great game: 21 points on 7-12 shooting, 4 rebounds, and 3 steals. John Paine was the only other Oak to register double-digits with his 10-point outing. Aside from those two, no one player stood out on the stat sheet: no Oak scored more than 6 points, and no Oak pulled down more than 5 rebounds. Menlo still tallied 42 rebounds on the night, but the Royals beat them at the glass, with 50 of their own. Ben Graham and William Asplund each scored 6 points and hauled in 4 rebounds.
The three-game road trip continues for Menlo and does not get any easier as the Oaks take on #7 Biola University on Saturday afternoon. Tip-off is set for 4:00 PM as the Oaks look to end a three-game slide.