SANTA CRUZ -- It was supposed to be UC Santa Cruz night at Kaiser Permanente Arena, but make no mistake, it was Manny Harris night.
The Los Angeles D-Fenders guard dropped 56 points and grabbed 16 rebounds to lead his team past the Santa Cruz Warriors 121-107 Saturday night.
“It just felt good from the start,” Harris said. “My teammates did a good job of looking for me.”
Harris was playing his first game back in the D-League after not being signed through the rest of the season by the Los Angeles Lakers despite earning two 10-day contracts and scoring 19 points in his final contest in the NBA.
The 6-foot-5-inch speedster got to the hoop at will and put the nail in the Warriors’ (16-12) coffin with a layup through traffic and a dagger 3-point shot to push the D-Fenders’ lead to 15 with 2 minutes, and 43 seconds.
“I just wanted to do anything to help the team get a win,” Harris said.
His performance not only pushed Los Angeles past Santa Cruz in the West Division standings to tie the Reno Bighorns for first, but his 56 points were the most ever given up by the Warriors.
Harris broke his own record of 41 points, which he set in his first game against the Warriors in December.
“That’s a heck of a stat line,” said Santa Cruz head coach Casey Hill. “Yeah I think he deserves to be in the NBA. I think he’ll get some sort of a look after that game.”
Harris’ scoring output was just two points shy of the D-League record set by Pierre Jackson just weeks ago. He insisted that he didn’t know what the record was, but added that he would’ve tried to beat it if he was aware.
“I was just having fun,” Harris said.
But for all the brilliance that Harris showed, it was the Warriors’ blunders in the second half that led to another backbreaking loss.
Santa Cruz gave up 16 second chance points and turned the ball over 12 times in the second half.
“Manny Harris had 56 points,” Hill said. “I don’t think that’s the reason we lost at all.”
The Warriors finished the second half with a scoring barrage starting with a Cameron Jones 3-pointer.
Hilton Armstrong followed that up by muscling in a put-back layup, and Seth Curry ended the half by picking Harris’ pocket and finishing with a transition bucket to give the Warriors a 60-51 lead at the break.
Los Angeles started the second half with a 15-0 run to take the lead back.
Santa Cruz last saw the lead with when Jones hit a layup with 5:38 left in the third quarter.
Harris hit back-to-back jumpers to give the D-Fenders the 73-71 advantage and they never looked back.
“I thought the first half we were great,” Hill said. “The second half we just came out, and it was the first time we played soft. We certainly did not play to the level of our talent, and that’s on me.”
Things won’t get much easier as they will travel to Los Angeles for a rematch against Harris and the D-Fenders Monday at 7 p.m.
“This will be a pride game,” Hill said. “You’re going to see different Warriors.”
Jones led the Warriors with 26 points. Dominic McGuire recorded a double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds. Curry and Armstrong both finished with 17 points.
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