By: Hansel Chu, Assistant Sports Editor
The UC Riverside men’s basketball team suffered a tough 65-60 defeat to UC Davis on Tuesday night. For the first time since December, fans and students were allowed back into the SRC Arena to watch the Highlanders. UCR fell down in the scoreboard by as much as 16 points, but a furious comeback saw the Highlanders bring the deficit to as close as 3 points. However, the Aggies were able to hit big-time shots to close out the game.
UC Riverside found themselves down early in the scoreboard to start the game, as UC Davis got out to a quick 7-0 run. The Highlanders settled themselves into the game and quickly tied the game up 9-9 just five minutes in. The Aggies continued to score at will against the UCR defense led by sophomore guard Ezra Manjon, but junior point guard Zyon Pullin kept the Highlanders afloat by getting to the free-throw line and converting free throws. With just under eight minutes left in the first half, UC Davis went on a huge 9-0 run to extend their lead into the double digits, 28-16, forcing Head Coach Mike Magpayo to call a timeout. The Aggies’ defensive intensity was high as the Highlanders struggled to get quality shots and turned the ball over seven times in the first half. With time winding down on the game clock, redshirt freshman center Jhaylon Martinez cleaned up a missed layup from Pullin to bring the score to 32-22 going into the half. UC Davis limited the Highlanders to 25% from the field in the first, making it tough for the UCR offense to get clean, open looks.
UC Riverside opened up the second half on a quick 4-0 run to bring the score to 32-26. However, the Aggies went on a 6-0 run to push their lead into the double-digits, 38-26. Throughout much of the second half, UCR looked lost and was unable to keep up with the intensity of UC Davis. The Aggies seemed to have their way with the Highlanders as they made it difficult for UC Riverside to get good shots and moved the ball with ease on the offensive end. A 3-pointer from sophomore guard Kane Milling gave UC Davis their largest lead of the game, 50-34 with 10:02 left in the game.
In what seemed like a defeating loss for the Highlanders, UC Riverside flipped a switch and started to come back into the game. A layup from sophomore Wil Tattersal cut the deficit into single digits, 51-43, and a putback layup from Martinez closed the margin to 6 points, 51-45, with 6:36 left in the game. A couple minutes later, in which both teams exchanged buckets after buckets, junior center Callum McRae converted a 3-point play to bring the score to 56-50 with 3:03 left. After a missed layup on the other end by Manjon, graduate student Dominick Pickett hit a triple from the top of the key to bring it to a 3-point game with 2:35 on the game clock. However, UC Davis responded with a 3-pointer from junior guard Caleb Fuller to extend the lead back to 6 points. With a minute left in the game, Fuller hit a one-legged floater near the 3-point line at the shot clock buzzer to ice the game away, and the Highlanders suffered a tough loss 65-60.
Pickett and Pullin led the Highlanders in scoring with 12 points each. Tattersal also contributed with 11 points and nine rebounds.
The Highlanders drop to 12-7 (6-3) on the season and will take on UC Irvine in Irvine on Thursday, Feb. 10, at 7 p.m.