After starting the season winless with an 0-3 start, UCR got its first win of the season against the UC Merced Bobcats (4-1). Playing in their first home game, the Highlanders defeated the Bobcats with a final score of 63-53.
The Highlanders started the game strong leading 16-10 with about 10 minutes left in the first half. Senior big man Menno Dijkstra started off the game scoring two easy buckets. Riverside proved to be aggressive on defense, as they were able to disrupt the Bobcats’ offense with a few tips and deflections. Their defensive intensity was strong in the first half and by halftime, the Highlanders held control of a 34-26 lead.
Heading into the second half, UCR was looking to keep the same momentum going. Sophomore forward Ajani Kennedy had a Lebron-like chasedown block that ignited the crowd. Though Kennedy didn’t score much, only recording three points, he was active everywhere else, putting up five rebounds, two steals, and two blocks in only 17 minutes of play. Dikymbe Martin and Jordan Gillman both led the team in points as they scored 13 points apiece.
Overall, the Highlanders played a good game and were rewarded with the victory. Their defensive effort led to many deflections, steals and blocks, recording a total of four blocks and four steals while their aggressiveness on the offensive end led to many easy buckets as they converted on 21 out of 42 total shots as a team.
“We are trying are let our defense dictate our offense rather than let our offense dictate our defense,” Head Coach David Patrick said. “We have some quickness where we can press them and we have other players that can make defensive plays.”
Although the Highlanders got this much-needed win in front of their home crowd, they can work to improve on converting their free throws as they shot only 56 percent on 14-of-25 shooting from the charity stripe. They also need to cut down on turnovers as they recorded 17 total turnovers compared to 11 from the Bobcats.
The Highlanders will look to build on this momentum as they travel north to Stockton, CA. They are going on a three-game road trip where they are set to face University of the Pacific on Thanksgiving Day.