Dec. 30, 2014
Highlanders 68 – Bears 63
Days before bringing in the New Year, the men’s basketball team recovered from a 17-point first-half deficit to dispatch the Morgan State Bears, 68-63. UCR’s Taylor Johns tied his career high with 31 points while grabbing 13 rebounds.
Morgan State started out of the gate on fire, scoring the first 11 points of the contest. The Highlanders’ offensive output was nearly nonexistent outside of Johns, who scored 18 of the team’s first 21 points. The Bears kept their lead, despite Johns’ efforts, leading at intermission 37-24.
UC Riverside started to find their range in the second half, shooting 62 percent from the field and cutting Morgan State’s advantage to four points, 44-40.
Behind Jaylen Bland’s 13 points and Steven Thornton’s 12, the Highlanders continued their second-half surge. The team tied the score at 57-57 before stealing the win behind timely layups and crunchtime free throws, 68-63.
The Highlanders shot 62.5 percent in the period while outmuscling their opponents in the paint, 36-22.
Jan. 2, 2015
Huskies 72 – Highlanders 67
On Friday evening, men’s basketball began the New Year by hitting the road to face Northern Illinois University. With both teams having comparable records, Riverside being 7-5 and Illinois being 5-5, it was set to be a challenging and evenly contested game. Despite turning the ball over 24 times, the Highlanders managed to force overtime, but fell to the Huskies 72-67.
In the first half, the Huskies opened the contest with a three-pointer from Johnson Anthony, who gave the Highlanders trouble all night, scoring 18 points for the contest. Following Anthony’s lead, Northern Illinois continued to pile on points as the home team extended their lead to 12 points midway through the half, 20-8, and led 30-21 heading into intermission.
Similar to their contest versus Morgan State, the Highlanders started to pick up their intensity in the second half. It was Nick Gruninger’s three-pointer, with 6:33 remaining, that finally put the Highlanders in the lead, 47-46. As the minutes ticked away, UCR seemed close to a second consecutive victory, leading by four points, 56-52, with two minutes remaining.
NIU, however, responded with back-to-back three-pointers that put them back in the lead, 58-56. Johns scored a layup with just 33 seconds remaining that forced the game into overtime. The intensity grew even stronger as the five minutes of overtime began. For the first three minutes both teams alternated in the scoring board. The Huskies separated themselves with a layup scored by Keith Gray. A few free throws later, the whistle blew and the Huskies took home the victory with a final score of 72-67.
Johns was UCR’s leading scorer, posting 19 points, seven rebounds and seven turnovers. Steven Jones tallied 14 points while Bland scored 13 points.