Men’s basketball powers past UC San Diego

Cameron Yong/HIGHLANDER
Cameron Yong/HIGHLANDER

The UC Riverside men’s basketball team had the entire Student Recreation Center Arena roaring with a 79-52 win over the UC San Diego Tritons. The Highlanders used a 21-0 run in the early minutes of the second half to power past their opponents in front of a near-capacity crowd celebrating Homecoming.

Taylor Johns put the first points on the board, and the Highlanders got off to a great start, scoring 13 of the first 17 points. Junior transfer Jaylen Bland knocked down a pair of three-pointers during the run. The Tritons started to convert on their shots and the rest of period featured fairly even play.

The Highlanders never lost the lead in the first half and were up by five heading into intermission, 29-24.

In the second half, UCR exploded on a 21-0 run which ballooned the lead to 52-28. During the span, the Tritons committed four turnovers and missed eight shots. The Highlanders shot over 60 percent from the field and the three-point line compared to 45 and 40 percent from the first half.

“We going to step on ‘em and keep going. We’re trying to push this lead up. Every time you get up by 10 points, 20 points, we’re bringing it (up) to 30 now. We have that killer instinct,” Johns commented after the game.

The UCR offense was commanding while the defense forced missed shots and turnovers.

“Every game will evolve, every matchup will evolve. Depending on how guys are playing, we have to be ready to go,” Head Coach Dennis Cutts stated. “If any one of them is not ready then the next guy has to be ready to go.”

Three players made huge strides to open up the season with double-digit point performances. Third-year Johns scored 18 points while transfer student Bland recorded 17 points. Nick Gruninger tallied 15 points.

The Highlanders will hit the road to face off against Utah on Friday, Nov. 21.

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