On Tuesday, Dec. 31, the UCR men’s basketball team (10-6) battled against the United States Air Force Academy (7-7) in what was the last game of 2019. The Highlanders struggled all game both offensively and defensively as they fell to the Falcons 105-56.
From the start of the game the Highlanders were seemingly outmatched as the Falcons put up 16 points in the first five minutes alone compared to only five points in that same span from the Highlanders. Air Force senior center Ryan Swan had five early points as he connected on a three and a mid-range jumper.
By the 12-minute mark of the first half, the Highlanders cut the lead to five points on a string of triples from freshman guard Zyon Pullin and junior guard George Willborn III. However, just as the momentum was starting to swing toward UCR’s side, the Falcons took charge once again.
At the end of the first half, Air Force Academy had a substantial lead over UCR. The Falcons converted on eight of their 13 three-point attempts and were a perfect 12-for-12 from the free throw line. Meanwhile, the Highlanders only managed to connect on nine of their 26 shot attempts, totaling 35% from the field.
The second half was much of the same for the Highlanders as they were unable to contain the scorching offense barrage of the Falcons. Air Force Academy knocked down seven triples in the second half and UCR’s defense simply did not have an answer. They outscored UCR 53-27 on 66% shooting from the field.
This game marked the first time this season that no Highlander reached double figures. The leading scorers in the game for Riverside were Willborn III and sophomore center Angus McWilliams. They each scored eight points apiece. Willborn also grabbed four rebounds and blocked a shot during his time on the floor. Callum McRae, a sophomore center from New Zealand, totaled seven points and five rebounds on 50% shooting from the field.
Air Force senior center Ryan Swan was the leading scorer for the Falcons. Swan finished with a game-high 25 points on 7-of-11 shooting from the field. Swan also converted on all nine of his attempts from the free throw line. Senior guard Caleb Morris added 22 points and five rebounds, going 7-for-8 from the field.
While the benches of both teams each scored 34 points, the Falcons held the edge in most of the other significant categories. The Falcons knocked down 15 threes while the Highlanders only converted on 12 triples. Air Force Academy also nearly doubled the field goal percentage of UCR as they connected on 60% of their field goals compared to Riverside, which only converted on 32%. In addition, the Falcons also outrebounded the Highlanders 33 to 28. No player from either team grabbed more than five rebounds.
On Saturday, Jan. 4, UC Riverside battled against San Diego Christian University (0-4) at the SRC arena. In a dominating fashion, the Highlanders defeated the Hawks by a 30-point margin, with the final score of 89-51. The final outcome of the game was a Riverside victory, marking the first win of the new year for the Highlanders.
In the first half, the game was relatively close, with the Highlanders only holding a seven-point halftime lead. However, UCR ramped up the offensive and defensive intensity in the second period of the game. With a stifling defensive scheme, the Highlanders held the Hawks scoreless for over six minutes of the second half. At one point in the second half, the Highlanders were able to stretch the lead to a 40-point margin. The Hawks were unable to make one last push and suffered their fourth defeat.
The Highlanders were led by McWilliams who posted a double-double of 18 points and 10 rebounds. Junior forward Arinze Chidom also accumulated a double-double. Chidom scored 16 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. Graduate student guard Khyber Kabellis contributed 14 points and grabbed six rebounds.
Up next, the Highlanders will travel north to battle against another UC. The game will take place on Thursday, Jan. 9 at 7:00 pm in Davis, California where the Highlanders will face off against UC Davis (5-10) at The Pavilion.