The UC Riverside men’s basketball team looked to bounce back from their hard-fought loss at University of Nevada – Las Vegas (UNLV) last Wednesday, Nov 16. The team came back home Thursday morning, wasting no time by continuing their preparation for their Homecoming game against Fresno Pacific University on Saturday, Nov 19.
“One thing we definitely want to make sure of is that we’re fresh, just because we’ve had a long week,” Associate Head Coach Justin Bell stated, “We just got back at 1:30 a.m. last night. We’re also trying to make sure we got some freshness and then really prepare tomorrow, putting on our game planning and making sure we come out with a lot of energy.” After being asked about specific game plans the team looks to utilize heading into games, Bell said, “Our same defensive principles. Sharing the ball as well as team defense and rebounding is our focus.” The Highlanders’ focus paid off, limiting Fresno Pacific to shooting just 25.9 percent from the field, as well as out-rebounding them 49-29, in a 96-50 blowout win on Homecoming night.
When asked if the Homecoming game provides further significance for the team beforehand, third-year forward Alex Larsson said, “Absolutely. It’s a chance to show the school what we’re made of this year. We got a good group of guys and could be a really special team. Coming out and providing a show for everyone by playing hard and together will be a cool thing to do in front of the entire school.” He then went on to talk more about the team’s overall preparation for homecoming, as well as other games, “The preparation starts when we get back from summer. We go through scouting, video and go through the individual players. By Saturday we’ll know their tendencies and their plays — everything like that.”
Though Larsson may be just a junior, he is also the longest tenured player on the team.
“I’m the only guy that has been here now for two seasons. We have a lot of returners, but usually guys have only been here for a year because they transfer.” Larsson also mentioned how his standing as an upperclassmen requires a bigger role on the team, especially as a leader, both on and off the court.
Looking past Saturday’s Homecoming game, Bell and Larsson spoke about the team’s goals for the rest of the season. “We just want to keep getting better, as well as peaking in March,” Bell stated, “We want to be playing our best basketball by the time we head into the tournament. As you know, Big West is a one-bid league so whoever wins goes to the NCAA tournament. We want to make sure that we’re healthy, improving every game and hope to be really hitting our stride by the time March comes.” As for the team to beat in conference this season, Bell and Larsson both mentioned Cal State Long Beach as the favorites to win. “Going off of the polls, Long Beach is going to be a really good team this year. But, on any given day, any given team is beatable,” Larsson said.
The Highlanders look to build off of their 46-point win as they play at University of Utah on Friday, Nov. 25 at 6 p.m.