Feb. 15, 2012
Titans 77 – Highlanders 64

An early surge by the Cal State Fullerton Titans proved to be too much for the UC Riverside Highlanders as UCR lost its third consecutive conference game. Four UCR players scored in double figures, but the Highlanders could not climb out of the hole they dug themselves into and Fullerton prevailed with a final score of 77-64.

Fullerton opened up the game with a quick 15-5 run to lead by double figures. Unable to make a run of their own, the Highlanders fell by as many as 14 points in the first half. UCR attempted a small offensive attack, but the lead was too big and UCR went into the half, trailing by 13.

Similar to the start of the first half, Fullerton went on a huge run early in the second and led by as many as 23 points after just five minutes. UCR managed to go on a 9-0 run late in the second half, but it far too little and far too late to take the lead. UCR lost by 13 points and Fullerton won by a score of 77-64.

This marked the seventh loss in eight games for UC Riverside. The loss dropped the team to sixth place in the Big West standings with a conference record of 5-8. The Titans, on the other hand, improved to 9-3 and sit in a tie for second place with UCSB in the conference standings.

Feb. 18, 2012
Highlanders 57 – Thunderbirds 52

Coming off a three-game losing streak, the UCR men’s basketball team played host to the Southern Utah Thunderbirds at home as part of the annual Sears BracketBuster event. Led by a tenacious defense and a red-hot Phil Martin, the Highlanders prevailed over Southern Utah in the final minutes of the game and won their first game two weeks with a final score of 57-52.

It was a game that featured six lead changes and seven tied scores. The Highlanders trailed by as many as six late in the second half, but the team still remained within striking distance. With all the momentum on Southern Utah’s side, the Highlanders were in desperate need of an offensive surge. It was an emphatic slam dunk by Phil Martin late in the second half that finally turned things around for Riverside. Martin dribbled the ball in transition and went up for a one-handed slam over the Thunderbirds to cut the lead to three.

Both teams traded baskets after that point, but the Highlanders managed to tie the game up at 50 points apiece after a strong layup by Kevin Bradshaw. A few moments later, Daymond Cowlah stole the ball from the Thunderbirds and gave UCR a shot at the lead. With just under three minutes remaining, Phil Martin drove to the basket was connected on a jumper to give UCR a 52-50 lead. UCR never trailed after that point.

Led by point guard Daymond Cowlah, UCR played aggressively on the defensive end and forced the Thunderbirds to only five field goals in the second half. UCR withstood every run Southern Utah attempted late in the game. With just under a minute remaining in regulation, UCR made two final free-throws to seal the game and win it by five points with a final score of 57-52.
Phil Martin finished the game with 21 points and six boards. Daymond Cowlah added some much-needed aggressiveness and finished with 10 points, seven boards and four steals for UCR.

For UCR, this proved to be the first win since Feb. 4 when the team beat UC Davis at home. Since Southern Utah is not a conference opponent, the Highlanders were not able to move up in the Big West standings and will remain in sixth place for the time being.

“We had some really good performances tonight,” said Head Coach Jim Wooldridge after the game. “We were talking all day about mental toughness. To win a Division I game, you’ve got to be mentally tough and I thought down the stretch, we found ways to do that and to show that, and we came out with a much-needed win.”

UCR will play two more road games and will return to the Student Recreation Center on March 3 for the Homecoming game against UC Irvine. After that, UCR can look forward to the Big West Tournament.