November 14, 2012
Bulldogs 39 — Highlanders 30

Coming off their Chicago trip that ended in a 0-2 record, the UC Riverside men’s basketball team returned home to the Student Recreation Center on Nov. 14, but they fell short, losing in a defensive battle against Fresno State 39-30.

In the first half the Highlanders turned the ball over 13 times while shooting 20 percent in field goals. But defensively, they forced the Fresno State Bulldogs to nine turnovers and held them to 21 percent shooting.

The second half was the same story as both teams ran set offenses that took more than 25 seconds on the shot clock. That led to forced jump shots and missed layups because of tight man-to-man defense.

“We didn’t want to waste a lot of effort in half court offense because it wasn’t there… we did have pockets where we tried to get out and you saw guys play in space but neither team giving up those kind of situations and so it turned into a prototypical possession game,” Coach Jim Wooldridge said on the offensive pace of the game.

The Highlanders went on to lose the low-scoring game with a final tally of 30-39. This loss brought the team’s overall record down to 0-3.

Fastbreak points were key in the game. On the probability of what fastbreaks could have done, guard Robert Smith said, “We definitely could have turned it up on the fastbreak, I feel that would have helped us out but we were just playing the game how it was going.”

Forward Chris Patton stated, “Getting a couple of easy buckets would be nice, I’m not really sure if there were any fastbreak opportunities or not… we were struggling in the half court and the other team as well but because both teams were struggling so bad, we were just grinding it out on what the game plan was.”

The Highlanders shot 27 percent in field goals but free-throw shooting was a crucial stat in the possessive game. UCR was 2-7 in free-throw shooting and 4-12 overall.

“Free throws definitely hurt us coming down the stretch. We need guys to step up and just knock them down, that would have gave us a slight chance.” Robert Smith said.

Chris Patton added on free throw woes, “It’s all mental.”

November 17, 2012
Highlanders 89 — Fighting Missionary 76

The UC Riverside men’s basketball team won its first game of the season by shutting down Division III Whitman College at home in the Student Recreational Center.

The Highlanders were tested early as Whitman College made a barrage of three-point shots, making 9-21 in the first half. Most of their buckets came in transition, from dribble handoffs and on drive and kicks. UC Riverside responded by getting early offense off of defensive rebounds and breaking a stingy 2-2-1 trap leading to layups and dunks.

Wooldridge knew that a switch from a man-to-man to a zone defense would keep Whitman out of rhythm. “Our defense was behind their offense, they look like they were shooting the ball in rhythm… the three point shot helped them but eventually broke their back… we were able to stay close to bodies out there and contest a little bit better,” Coach Jim Wooldridge said.

Riverside shut down Whitman’s shooters as they held them to 12.5 percent from the three-point range in the second half.

“With that zone we were able to help each other a lot more and then once we got that rebound, we were able to push… so once we got it we just took off and got easy layups,” said forward Josh Fox.

On the offensive end, Josh Fox, guard Robert Smith and forward Chris Harriel attacked off the dribble drive while forward Lucas Devenny was active with his rebounding. “Lucas Devenny’s 15 rebounds, we probably don’t win without those 15 rebounds,” Coach Jim Wooldridge said on the impact of Lucas’ rebounding creating possessions.

Tajai Johnson scored off the dribble with layups on the fastbreak contributing with nine points while Davin Guinn scored six points on open jump shots and putbacks as well as grabbing five rebounds. Chris Harriel had a great all-around performance with 26 points, eight rebounds and five assists with one steal and one block. Josh Fox followed up with 18 points.

Chris Harriel commented on the team attacking off the dribble drive, saying, “I feel we have a lot of guys that are good with the ball and in transition, since they were pressing us a lot we had no other choice but to attack.”

Following their win, the Highlanders are now 1-3 and will travel to Anchorage, Alaska to participate in the Great Alaska Shootout Nov. 21- 24.