UCR men’s basketball enjoyed a successful season of individual and team improvement before tournament cancellation

UCR’s men’s basketball team finished the season with a 17-15 record and a Big West Conference record of 7-9. As it stands with the postseason tournament canceled, the Highlanders placed sixth overall among the nine teams in the conference. Despite the cancellation of the conference tournament, it was a successful season for the Highlanders as they improved on their win total from the 2018-19 season by seven wins. 

“This season was a step in the right direction,” said Head Coach David Patrick.  “There were some bumps in the road this season and of course we wish we could have made up the points in the games with those close losses, but in the end they help us learn and improve for the future.” 

He also pointed out some of his favorite games from this past season, “The night against Fresno state when we were down 20 points and then brought it back late in the second half, beating Hawaii State on their Senior Night, and against UC Davis on our Senior Night were all great games.”

One of the highlights of the season for the Highlanders was when they scored a season-high 97 points against Cal Poly San Luis Obispo on Jan. 23. Against the Mustangs, junior forward Arinze Chidom led the way for the Highlanders with 18 points and nine rebounds. Sophomore guard Dragan Elkaz also scored 14 points, his second highest output of the season.

Individually, multiple players improved statistically. Chidom finished the season as the team’s leader in points scored per game with an average of 11.8. Sophomore center Callum McRae improved his points per game average from his freshman season to his sophomore season from 7.6 to 9.6. Junior guard Dominick Pickett scored a season-high 20 points during the game against Long Beach State on Jan. 30. 

Due to the outbreak of COVID-19, the postseason tournament was canceled three hours before it was set to take place, with the teams already in attendance and ready to compete. 

Regarding the situation Coach Patrick stated, “It was unfortunate, but there is nothing more important than everyone’s health so it’s a necessary sacrifice. This just taught us that you don’t always know when your next game is gonna be so you need to play your hardest in every game. This taught us how precious every moment is.” 

According to Patrick, student support has helped the situation a lot, “Also, it’s sad because some of the players won’t be coming back next season but we all really appreciated how so many students always came out and supported us at the home games throughout the whole season.”