UC Riverside (1-2) visited University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) (1-1) for a matchup in the desert Wednesday, Nov. 16. The Highlanders fought hard but their second-half comeback effort fell short in a 74-62 loss to the Rebels.
Center Alex Larsson led the way for UCR falling just shy of a double-double with 14 points and nine rebounds. UC Riverside remained disciplined despite short offensive bursts from UNLV, committing only 12 turnovers for the game. The Highlanders also made it a point of emphasis to attack the paint, finishing with 36 points in the paint compared to UNLV’s 28 points. The squad is looking to cut down on the fouls as the season progresses, as their hot-handed big man, Larsson, got in foul trouble early, forcing him to sit on the bench for the remainder of the half. The Highlanders finished with 18 personal fouls to the Rebels’ 14 fouls.
The Highlanders rebounded with a dominant outing against Fresno Pacific University (0-4) for Homecoming on the afternoon of Saturday, Nov. 19, cruising to a 96-50 victory. UCR stuck true to their strengths as they attacked the paint early and often, taking a double-digit lead going into half against the Sunbirds. Freshman guard Dikyembe Martin led the team en route to a season-high 26 points. His jumper was working from the get-go and he did not let up, finishing where he started with 13 second-half points.
The Highlanders have the luxury of versatile scorers on the wings, a strength that Head Coach Dennis Cutts looks to exploit with fast break opportunities and shots in the paint. It will be interesting to see how Cutts will rotate his wings as the season progresses. Expect to see a lot of Malik Thames, Secean Johnson, Chance Murray and Martin for the Highlanders.
UCR is shooting just 18 percent at the three-point line and 72.7 percent on free throws as the Highlanders are still looking to find their shooting rhythm. The team is loaded with playmakers on the wings and mature scorers in the paint. As the team builds cohesion and grows accustomed to each others’ playing style, shot opportunities will open up for the entire team. The team utilizes a diverse set of scorers, with over four players on the team averaging 10 points per game or more.
The Highlanders will look to keep their momentum as they travel to the Salt Lake City to face Utah University (3-0) on Friday, Nov. 25.