By: Hansel Chu, Assistant Sports Editor

The UC Riverside men’s basketball team blew out Cal State LA 90-56 at the SRC Arena Saturday afternoon. The Highlanders started the season off with a bang as high expectations were placed on the team after a successful last season. Led by junior point guard Zyon Pullin, who flirted with a triple-double this game, UC Riverside made easy work of the Golden Eagles.

Courtesy of UCR Athletics

In the first quarter, junior guard Flynn Cameron got off to a hot start with a corner triple and a layup to give the Highlanders an early 7-2 lead. Five minutes into the first half, senior forward J.P Moorman II got things going with seven quick points. The story of the first half was the Highlander defense, as by the halfway point, UC Riverside already forced five team turnovers on Cal State LA. A corner 3-pointer from freshman guard Wil Tattersall extended the Highlander lead to nine with 5:25 left in the first half, and a Eurostep layup from Moorman II gave UC Riverside its first double-digit lead of the game.

From that point on, the game was dominated by the Highlanders as they would go on multiple runs to extend their lead to end the first half. Back to back buckets from Pullin gave UCR a fourteen point lead with 2:10 left on the clock. A top of the key 3-pointer from Cameron and a layup from graduate student Dominick Pickett put Riverside up twenty at halftime, 50-30. Pullin stuffed the stat sheet with 14 points, eight rebounds and seven assists at the half while Moorman contributed with nine points and three rebounds. UCR also forced 11 Golden Eagle turnovers, which turned into 14 points off turnovers for the Highlanders.

UC Riverside carried their momentum from the end of the first half into the second half, as a beautiful in and out crossover into a layup from Pickett gave the Highlanders a 60-37 lead in the first five minutes of the second half. Possessions later, a 9-0 run from UCR extended their lead to thirty, 69-39. A backdoor cut into a slam dunk from freshman forward Niyi Olabode gave the Highlanders their largest lead of the afternoon, 87-55. Even the bench players contributed to the fun, as a thunderous fastbreak dunk from redshirt freshman Quinton Ford ignited the crowd and put the exclamation point on the game as the Highlanders won in blowout fashion, 90-56.

Pullin finished one assist shy of a triple-double, which has not been achieved in UC Riverside men’s basketball history. He put up 17 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists along with five steals. “Zyon is a really hard cover because he can drive it, finish it, draw fouls because of his strength and has become an excellent passer who can read coverages as well as any point guard,” said head coach Mike Magpayo when asked about Pullin’s performance. Moorman II also contributed with 15 points and nine rebounds. The Highlanders forced 19 Cal State LA turnovers, which led to a massive 26 points off of turnovers. When asked about their defensive performance during the game, Magpayo said, “We just wanted to play team defense and stick with our identity and scheme and we accomplished that today.”

The Highlanders officially begin their season on Nov. 9 as they travel down to San Diego to take on San Diego State.