The UC Riverside men’s basketball team lost a heartbreaker 71-69 at Fullerton. Fullerton’s Kwame Vaughn with about 16 seconds left drained the game winning shot. The theme of the game was tempo. The Titans average 84.8 points per game, which is second in the nation and first in the Big West. The Highlanders average 57.9 points per game which is 331st nationally and last in the Big West.
The Highlanders came into the game looking to use their post play to control the tempo. Fullerton at one point played more guards than forwards to take advantage of their speed to drive in the paint and utilize their three point shooting. Fullerton was able to get transition layups and threes. They used spread pick and rolls and drive and kicks to get easy looks for their shooters. UC Riverside utilized post up plays and straight line drives to the rim for buckets.
Fullerton led 20-10 after a drive to the basket by D.J. Seely. Sammy Yeager scored 14 points in the first half and shot 4-6 from three point range. Chris Patton scored eight points to lead the Highlanders and scored on a floater to end the half. Although the Highlanders turned the ball over 16 times, they were able to rally from a 14-point deficit cutting the lead to six trailing 34-28 in the second half.
Riverside led in statistics with 17 rebounds and shooting 63 percent from the field. Chris Harriel started the second half with five consecutive points by being aggressive. Harriel drove in the paint often and with about 19 minutes left, drilled a three that cut the lead to 34-33.
The Highlanders led for the first time in the game when they forced a turnover. Patton dribbled down the court and made a jump hook for a 49-48 lead. Taylor Johns’ activity on the offensive rebounds and scoring on layups increased the lead 57-51 with 10 minutes to go.
Cal State Fullerton fought back regaining the lead 61-60 with drives by Seely and Vaughn with six minutes left. Down 69-67 with 20 seconds to go, Patton fumbles a pass but scored with a jump hook after he regained possession of the ball. The shot tied the game at 69 a piece with 16 seconds remaining.
Vaughn for Cal State Fullerton responded with a game winning fadeaway jump shot that swished through the net as the clock expired. Although the Highlanders controlled most of the second half with rebounding and high percentage shooting, turnovers in the closing minutes was demoralizing.
Riverside’s 23 turnovers and 53 percent shooting from the free throw line were major setbacks, however, UC Riverside showed heart by playing with effort, grabbing rebounds and attacking.
The Highlanders are now 1-3 in the Big West and 4-12 overall. The next two games will be at home against Long Beach State Thursday, Jan. 17 and UC Irvine Saturday, Jan. 19.