Men’s basketball loses steam in battle for postseason berth

Cameron Yong/HIGHLANDER
Cameron Yong/HIGHLANDER

Feb. 20, 2014

Gauchos 55 – Highlanders 54

Looking to win their first game in program history at the Thunderdome, the men’s basketball team squared off against UC Santa Barbara on Thursday night. Facing an 11-point halftime deficit, a resilient UC Riverside squad fell short once again as the Gauchos clenched the victory, 55-54.

With three minutes gone in the first half, Riverside built a small three-point lead, but the Gauchos slowly stole the momentum and never looked back. Gaucho Alan Williams, who leads the Big West Conference in scoring and rebounding, struggled to connect early as Riverside’s defense produced multiple blocked shots and forced turnovers. With Highlander Chris Patton in foul trouble, backup center Lucas Devenny checked into the game. Devenny played two seasons with the Gauchos, during which Santa Barbara won two conference championships. Playing in familiar surroundings, the Santa Rosa product scored six points, making all three field goals in the period. Santa Barbara, however, took advantage of free throw opportunities as they connected on 13 of 15 compared to Riverside’s four of eight. When the buzzer rang, the Gauchos were up by 11, 31-20.

Determined to change the game around, Riverside generated an early 8-0 run, cutting the lead to three, 31-28. Both teams continued to exchange buckets, but the Gauchos always kept in the lead by a couple of points. With three minutes remaining, Riverside surprised the Santa Barbara crowd as they tied the game with a pair of Taylor Johns free throws, 47-47. Williams got his team back on track as the forward scored four points in the span of 50 seconds, 51-47.

Austin Quick scored a three-pointer, making it a two-point game, 53-51, with seven seconds remaining. The Highlanders immediately fouled Gaucho Zalmico Harmon in hopes of stealing the victory, but Harmon scored both free throws, 55-51. Quick drained another three, but it was not enough as the game came to an end, 55-54.

Although Riverside made 41.7 percent from the field compared to Santa Barbara’s 31.4 percent, the Gauchos earned the win by drilling 82.6 percent from the charity line compared to the Highlanders’ 55.6 percent.

Johns led the Highlanders with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Devenny scored a career-high of 10 points and eight boards. Gaucho Williams led all scorers with 19 points and 15 rebounds.

 

Feb. 22, 2014

Mustangs 69 – Highlanders 64

After losing four games in a row, the men’s basketball team (8-19, 3-10) hoped to pull out another victory against Cal Poly San Luis Obispo (10-16, 6-7) Saturday night in the Mott Athletics Center. With 42 seconds remaining in the game, the Mustangs stole the victory as they connected on six of eight free throws down the stretch, 69-64.

The first 20 minutes of play began with the Highlanders on top, but the Mustangs responded by slicing the lead. Riverside led by as many as five points, but with two minutes remaining, Cal Poly took command. Consecutive fouls from Riverside allowed the Mustangs to close the half up by three, 29-26. Highlander Taylor Johns was fundamental for Riverside’s defense throughout the period as he grabbed three defensive rebounds, tallied one steal and blocked three shots.

The first nine minutes of the half continued to be a one-possession game. Midway through the second half, Cal Poly went on a 9-1 run with eight minutes remaining, 49-41. With 51 seconds remaining in the game, Riverside cut the lead to a three-point deficit as they compiled a 63-60 score, but would get no closer than that, losing 69-64. Cal Poly connected 27 of 35 from the charity line compared to Riverside’s 16 of 21.

Steven Thornton led the Highlanders with 21 points on eight of nine shooting. Sam Finley tallied 16, while Chris Patton added 14. Mustang Chris Eversley led all scorers with 22 points, while Michael Bolden scored a career-high of 13 points.

Riverside (3-10) is now a full game behind UC Davis (3-9) for the final eighth seed in the Big West conference postseason tournament. The team next plays on Saturday, March 1 as they host Cal State Northridge at the Student Recreation Center Arena at 7 p.m.

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