Valentine’s Day will be a memorable night for many reasons for the UCR men’s basketball team.
Entering the game, the Highlanders had lost four straight by an average margin of 20 points and with the second-place UC Santa Barbara Gauchos (17-7, 6-4) coming to town, they appeared destined to lose again.
However, the poor play that had plagued the Highlanders in recent games was righted, as they upset the Gauchos 71-57 at home, handing UCSB back-to-back losses for the first time this season.
With the win, the Highlanders matched their win total from last season (9-17, 3-7) with six games left to play.
Prior to the losing streak, the Highlanders led the Big West in three-point shooting. They shot 29.9 percent over their four straight losses.
However, things quickly turned around in the first half, as they were eight-for-11 from deep which helped build an early double-digit lead. The Highlanders also came alive defensively, limiting the Gauchos to just three-of-11 from distance en route to a 41-33 lead at halftime.
Unlike previous games, UCR didn’t wilt in the second half. Instead, they doubled-down defensively and allowed just one three point basket in the entire second half. The Highlanders also limited UCSB to 32 percent from the field, dropping their shooting totals to 39 percent for the game and 18 percent from deep.
For UCR, junior guard Dikymbe Martin led all players with 18 points, while also eclipsing the 1,000 point mark in his career, becoming only the fifth Highlander in the program’s Division I era to do so. Redshirt sophomore Dominick Pickett finished with a game-high five assists and seven rebounds.
For the Gauchos, graduate guard Ar’mond Davis led the team with 14 points and six rebounds. Sophomore guard JaQuori McLaughlin led the team with two assists.
Following an uplifting victory, the Highlanders travelled to take on the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors (16-9, 7-4) on Saturday, Feb. 16 in a rematch from a Jan. 19 game in which UCR picked up their first conference win.
The Highlanders looked to repeat their performance from their previous game. However, their defense struggled once again, giving up 50 points in the first half while allowing the Rainbow Warriors to shoot 62 percent from the field, trailing 50-29 at halftime.
UCR looked to get back into the game to start the second half, but allowed a 20-11 run over the first few minutes to curb any chance they had to fight back. The Highlanders fell 87-64 to drop to 1-6 over their previous seven games.
For Riverside, Martin followed up his record-making game against UCSB with a 22-point effort and a career-high six three-point field goals, while also leading the team with three assists. Senior center Menno Dijkstra led the team with four rebounds.
For Hawaii, senior forward Jack Purchase finished with game-highs of 23 points and nine rebounds. Sophomore guard Drew Buggs led a players with nine assists.
Up next for the Highlanders, they return home to take on the Long Beach State 49ers (9-18, 3-8) in their first meeting of the season Saturday, Feb. 23.