UC Riverside’s men’s basketball team took on the University of Utah on Friday, Nov. 25 in Utah. UCR was coming off of a win against Fresno Pacific where they won by 40 and freshman point guard Dikymbe Martin came off the bench to score 26 points.
Martin got to start the game against Utah due to senior guard Malik Thames going home to Sacramento because of an illness in his family. The Highlanders also had to play without three other rotation players (DJ Sylvester, Marcus Blakely and Idy DIallo) who did not travel due to injuries.
Early on, the teams exchanged buckets and the game stayed close, finding each other dead even at nine after three minutes of play. Martin, who once again had the hot hand, was responsible for five out of the nine points. At that point the Utes went on a 7-0 run, forcing Head Coach Dennis Cutts to settle his team down. Utah came out on fire going seven of nine from the field to start the game.
This game went back and forth in the first half. After the timeout, the Highlanders were able to score consecutive baskets to get them within one point. UCR went on to tie the score at 21 before Utah rattled off 11 straight points.The Highlanders hit a three-pointer with 6:04 to go to make it a six-point Utah lead. However, Utah responded with a strong 13-7 run to a 46-34 lead into halftime. Martin played the entire first half and ended it with 10 points on six shots.
Utah came out determined to end the game early, they scored the first six points after the break.
The Utes continued to put their foot on the gas, and got their lead beyond 20 points. The Highlanders were able to string together one last run as they scored eight straight points to cut the lead to 17. The closest that Riverside would get after this was 15 but Utah stayed ahead and took the 18-point victory.
Utah out-rebounded UCR 49-32. Cutts knew rebounding was something his team has to work on and it showed as it may have cost his team the game.
It was overall a bad night for the Highlanders. Another key element Cutts stresses to his team is defense and in this game his team failed to hold Utah to the 42 percent from the field clip average they had held other teams to coming in. Though, Utah’s 50 percent from the field was the highest percentage put up by a UCR opponent this season.
A positive takeaway is the growth of Martin, who had another good game scoring 15 points on 11 shots. He has been the most exciting player on this team so far and after scoring at an efficient rate the past two games, it seems he might be able to keep this going. Cutts said of Martin, “Dikymbe’s a good player. No doubt about it. He’s capable of doing that. People are going to see him have a really good career here.”
The Highlanders play at UCLA on Wednesday, Nov. 30 at 8 p.m. PT.