The UC Riverside Men’s basketball team pulled away with a win in their exhibition game vs. NAIA Division 1 School San Diego Christian 83-72.

The Highlanders played through the post early, using excellent set plays and utilizing angles on their post entry passing. As a result, it led to easy buckets and fouls that resulted in free throws. Highlander Chris Patton scored nine points off of post entry passes in the perimeter. Josh Fox made his presence felt in the paint when he scored nine points and grabbed three offensive rebounds.

Attacking off the dribble drive was also key in the first half. Robert Smith created fouls off of his dribble penetration, shooting five of seven from the free throw line. As a team, the Highlanders shot 14-21 in the free throws for the first half. San Diego Christian played a spread game using a lot of pick and rolls, drive and dish to three pointers in their offensive arsenal as well as creating off the dribble and making the mid range shots with their guards. San Diego Christian’s Derrick Thompson led the way with 11 points and the team shot seven of 15 from three point range.

A 2-3 zone defense was employed late by San Diego Christian to negate the Highlander’s interior play. The Highlanders were rattled and caught off guard with a couple of turnovers. Playing through the post and dribble drives helped the Highlander’s entry passes inside to Chris Patton and the offensive rebounding gave them higher percentage shots. Although they shot two of 11 from the three point range, Highlanders Austin Quick and Davin Guinn provided timely threes as both combined were two of four from three pointers.

UCR trailed 41-40 at the half. However, the second half was a different story. UC Riverside stymied San Diego Christian’s offense by forcing contested threes, mid-range shots, and contested dribble drives in the paint leading to 33% field goal shooting (11-33) and 25% three point shooting. Although Fox and Patton controlled the boards and scored in the paint, Highlander Chris Harriel came alive attacking with 10 points in the second half. He went three of seven from the field and three of four in the free throw line finishing with 12 points total.

The Highlanders used perimeter passing and drives to the rim to attack the gaps in the zone defense leading them to 11-22 free throws and pulling away for an 83-72 victory. Patton led the team in scoring with 23 points.  Fox led in rebounding with 11 and finished with a double-double adding 15 points while Quick led in assists with seven.

Coach Jim Wooldridge commented on the interior play of Chris Patton and Josh Fox, saying. “Those guys can produce more offense for us than anyone on our team, and then they’re the finish part of our defense…they got big and wide and created some misses by the offense.” On the impact of the point guard play and leadership of Robert Smith for Saturday’s game and the future, he said, “We have to have him, 34 minutes tonight and we just didn’t feel comfortable getting him off the floor. He has a major role on this team, a significant importance, I shudder to think what we’d do without him right now because we are trying to develop a young man behind him that has not been a point guard, so the more minutes Robert can claim and do it effectively, then we can bring this other young man on.”

Patton spoke on his first game as an NCAA division one player tonight saying “I was really excited, I really wasn’t nervous. I played in junior college for two years and the reason I went to junior college was to be a Division 1 basketball player. I was waiting for this for a long time, so I was ready to go.”

“This year we have a post presence so we can go inside a lot more than we did last year,” said Robert Smith on the differences between last year and this year’s team. “Last year we relied on our guards. That’s what we’re focused on this year, an inside-out game.”

The 2012-2013 season begins on Nov. 9 as the Highlanders travel to Chicago to face Depaul University from the Big East Conference.