The Lancers men’s basketball team lost its third consecutive home game Friday in a 74-51 defeat against bitter rivals Mt. San Antonio College.

Despite a game high 28 points from sophomore forward Taj Spencer, the Lancers were unable to overcome an early first half deficit.

“We got off to another slow start,” Spencer said. “Offense comes and goes but we have to always play defense and we didn’t do that.”

With Friday’s loss, the Lancers (18-9, 6-5) fell out of a first place tie with division leading East LA College. The Lancers are still looking for their first conference title since the 1999-2000 season.

Against Mt. SAC the Lancers were hampered early in the first half with foul trouble. Sophomore point guard Jeffrey Dockett was saddled early in the first half with two early fouls, allowing the Mounties to break out to a 20-8 lead.

“We’ve been in a little slump lately,” head coach Michael Swanegan said. “We started the game with some players in early foul trouble but we have to learn to play through it.”

Rated No. 15 in the SoCal poll, the Lancers are 5-5 at home and just 2-4 in conference games. Away from the HP facility, the team has a 13-4 record and 4-1 mark in conference meetings.

For its second consecutive home game the Lancers failed to score more than 10 points by the 10-minute mark in the first half. By halftime, the Lancers trailed 38-25, with Spencer scoring 17 of the teams 25 first half points.

“We missed too many free-throws and we can’t continue to start the game slow,” Dockett added.

In the second half, the Lancers had opportunities to get back into the game. But they could not buy a basket at the free throw line, missing 10 consecutive attempts during the second half. On the night the Lancers shot a disappointing 16 of 34 from the line.

“We did a terrible job on the offensive glass,” Spencer said. “We also missed a ton of free-throws and that resulted in us losing by 20-plus.”

The Lancers were dismantled on the boards, losing the rebounding battle 47-26. Freshman forward Stephaun Branch scored 17 points and pulled down a game-high 19 rebounds. Branch did most of his damage in the second half, scoring 14 and grabbing 13 boards while making a perfect 8-for-8 from the line. Daniel Thompson led the Mounties in scoring with 18 points.

The only Lancer to reach double figures against the Mounties was Spencer. Overall, the conference-leading scoring Spencer also topped the team in rebounds (seven), assists (four), blocks (three) and was involved in 13 of the team’s 17 total field goals made. Spencer finished the game connecting on 9-of-15 field goals while the rest of the team went just 8-for-32 (25 percent).

The Lancers will travel to face LA Trade Tech on Wednesday, Feb. 19 and then close out the regular season on Friday, Feb. 21 at El Camino College-Compton Center. Both SCC games have 7 p.m. tip-offs following the women’s contests.

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