Courtesy of UCR Athletics

UCR men’s basketball (9-22, 3-12) dropped the season series against Long Beach State (14-18, 8-8) with a 70-57 defeat on Wednesday, March 6.

The Highlanders started the game off well, leading by as many as eight points and out-rebounding Long Beach 21-13 in the first half. However, the team would end the period by going cold from the field, as well as turning the ball over nine times in the final five minutes of the half. This gave the visitors their first lead of the game, as LBSU went into halftime up 30-25.

Riverside responded by going on a mini run to retake the lead at 41-36 thanks to a three-pointer from freshman DJ McDonald. McDonald started getting hot from long distance in the period, tallying a career-high 12 points on 4-of-5 shooting from three-point range. The Highlanders collectively shot 46 percent from beyond the arc in the second period.

However, Long Beach’s offense really began to pick up midway through the second half. A couple of threes from Edon Maxhuni and Deishuan Booker gave the opposing team an 58-45 lead with 8:01 remaining. Riverside failed to keep the game within a single digit deficit in the last eight minutes of regulation as the 49ers never looked back on their lead.

Freshman Callum McRae nearly had a double-double with eight points and eight rebounds, while senior Menno Dijkstra recorded 10 points and five rebounds himself.

The last game of the regular season was determined by McRae’s last shot. Coming off an inbound pass from sophomore Dominick Pickett, McRae caught the ball in the post, picked up his dribble to the opposite side of the rim and hit a game winner with just under two seconds left. The Highlanders wound up winning 71-70 and earned the eighth seed slot in the Big West Tournament.

Riverside shot 62 percent from the field in the first half, with strong outings from junior guard Dikymbe Martin and Dominick Pickett. Martin recorded 12 points on 5-for-6 shooting in the first half while Pickett put up 11 points on 4-for-4 shooting.

UCR led through the majority of the game, as Davis only held leads in the first minute of play and the last minute of play. With the Aggies up 70-69 with four seconds left, McRae responded with his turn around hook shot to seal the game.

Four Highlanders earned double figures in scoring, with Martin leading the way with 17 points as Pickett put up 16 points and nine boards. Dijkstra recorded a double-double with 12 points and 10 boards and McRae ended the game with 11 points.

The victory gives the Highlanders the 8th seed in the Big West Tournament as the team will face top-ranked UC Irvine on Thursday, March 14 at the Honda Center.

UCI has held UCR’s number all season long, with the Anteaters’ two victories averaging a 19.5 point margin. Everything’s going to need to go right for the Highlanders to pull off an upset on Thursday, and though matchups with Irvine aren’t in their favor, anything can happen in just one game of basketball.

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