On Friday, Feb. 19, UCR’s men’s basketball team defeated the UC San Diego (UCSD) Tritons 81-75 thanks to a 3-point barrage and dominant rebounding from the Highlanders. UCR played the Tritons in a non-conference match on Jan. 31 when UCSD’s scheduled opponent, Long Beach State, was forced to cancel the game, in which the Highlanders won 71-59. The Highlanders looked to bounce back after a disappointing loss last week.
UCR started with a quick 5-3 lead to open the game. However, 3 quick turnovers from the Highlanders led to a 5-0 run from the Tritons, which saw the Highlanders trail 5-10 in a matter of minutes, forcing Head Coach Mike Magpayo to call a timeout. Out of the timeout, UCR settled into the game and went on a 10-2 run, which included a 3-pointer from redshirt senior guard Dominick Pickett to give UCR a 15-12 lead near the halfway point in the first half.
With 7:24 left in the first half, the Highlanders led 28-26 but also committed 8 turnovers, which caused Coach Magpayo to call another timeout. UCR then went on a 16-4 run to lead 44-30, which was the largest lead of the game, and led 44-36 going into halftime. Pickett and senior guard George Willborn III led the Highlanders with 8 points apiece, and sophomore guard Zyon Pullin chipped in with 7 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists. UCR also shot 59.3% from the field and a scorching 61.5% from 3-point range, along with a 21-8 rebound advantage over the Tritons.
In the second half, UCSD started to climb back into the game, bringing the game to 49-43 four minutes into the second half. However, a Pickett 3-pointer a couple of possessions later put the Highlanders up 54-43 with 14:44 left in the game. In a statement with GoHighlanders, Magpayo said, “Dom is our Tom Brady. Carries our team with confidence since the first day we got here.”
The Tritons once again chipped into the UCR lead and brought the game to 57-51 near the halfway point in the second half. Both teams continued to exchange baskets, and a 3-pointer from UCSD’s guard Gabe Hadley brought the game to 68-65 with 7:55 to go. A fastbreak layup from Pullin extended the Highlander lead to 72-67.
With 3:13 left in the game, UCR led 76-70, but UCSD made one final push to win the game. A layup from Hadley cut the lead to 78-75 with 1:26 to go, forcing Magpayo to call a timeout. The Highlanders would not let the Tritons score for the remainder of the game, and a steal from center Jock Perry sealed the game as the Highlanders won 81-75. “A tough tough road win today. Proud of the guys for gutting this one out and finding a way,” said Coach Magpayo when asked about victory.
Pickett led the Highlanders with 19 points, including five 3-pointers. “He is our calming presence, and he did it again when we needed it on the road,” said Coach Magpayo in a press release. Pullin contributed 14 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists, and forward Arinze Chidom chipped in with 14 points, 7 rebounds and 2 blocks. UCR connected on 14-29 from 3-point range, while out-rebounding the Tritons 39-25.
The Highlanders improved their record to 10-5 and will face the top seeded UC Santa Barbara next Friday, Feb. 26 and next Saturday, Feb. 27.