Nov. 7, 2014

Highlanders 66 – Hawks 49

The UC Riverside men’s basketball team made a triumphant start to the new season with a 66-49 exhibition win over Holy Names. Playing their first game without former center Chris Patton, the Highlanders had no problem scoring in the paint and controlling the boards, tallying 38 points in the key compared to the Hawks’ 18.

Holy Names, who never led in the contest, got off to a rough start, receiving a technical foul for dunking the ball during warm-ups. The Highlanders took full advantage. UCR led in the double digits for the majority of the 40-minute contest due in large part to the play of junior transfer Jaylen Bland.

Bland, who transferred to UCR after winning a league championship at the College of Canyons, recorded a double-double in his first game for the blue-and-gold. He scored 17 points while grabbing 12 rebounds. The 6-foot-3-inch guard was also perfect from the free-throw line (5-for-5).

Another standout player was junior Taylor Johns, who tallied 16 points, 14 rebounds and two blocks on the night. Nick Gruninger chipped in 12 points and four assists. Johns and Gruninger were both named to College Sports Madness’ Big West Preseason All-Conference teams before the season started.

Along with being named to the preseason All-Conference team, Johns was named to the Big West Conference Honorable Mention Team last season after finishing third in the Big West Conference in blocked shots, fifth in rebounds and sixth in field goal percentage. He blocked 72 shots on the season, which was the third-most in program history.

Dante Robinson led the Hawks with 21 points off the bench.

Both teams shot below 30 percent from beyond the arc. UCR, however, shot over 40 percent from the field compared to the Hawks’ 31 percent.

The Highlanders also dominated the glass, out-rebounding their Division II opponent 43-26.

UCR begins regular season play as they host UC San Diego for Homecoming on Nov. 15.