By: Kevin Contreras, Sports Editor
The Highlanders faced off against the Cal State Bakersfield Roadrunners on Thursday night, Feb. 17. The SRC arena roared with excitement as a multitude of Highlanders came out to support the men’s basketball team in their effort to climb to the top of the midfield in the Big West Standings.
The game got off to a rough start with the Roadrunners catching on to an early lead. CSUB opened up the scoreboard with a jumper from junior forward Cameron Smith. This prompted the Roadrunners to embark on an early 6-0 run in the first few minutes of the game. UCR, unwilling to be shown up on their own court, embarked on an impressive 18-0 run to grant them the lead. During the impressive run, UCR graduate student and guard, Dominick Pickett, shot two solid 3-pointers, and sophomore guard Will Tattersal also sank a 3-pointer of his own. With just over nine minutes left to go in the first half, the scoreboard was 18-8 in favor of the Highlanders. The Roadrunners embarked on a quick 6-2 run of their own to place them within a 5-point reach from UCR. The Highlanders, unwilling to let go of their lead, went on an 8-2 run of their own, to keep CSUB at bay. Within that run, both Tattersal and Pickett scored another 3-pointer each, the score 28-17 with 4:08 left on the clock. In the final minutes of the game, both teams went back and forth trading baskets, Tattersal and Pickett, again showcased their amazing talent from downtown, scoring another 3-pointer each. The Highlanders ended the half in the lead by 11, 32-25.
Going into the second half, the comfortable lead UCR had created themselves foreshadowed not only what was to come for the rest of the game but for the rest of the week. UCR opened up the half with another solid 3-pointer from Pickett. CSUB was then awarded two free throws, made good by sophomore guard David Walker. As a response, junior guard Zyon Pullin managed to retrieve the ball and dunk it in a show of force. Both teams, eager to score, traded baskets for the rest of the game. UCR was unwilling to relent in control of the game, and CSUB was desperate to cut the deficit. The 11-point lead generated in the first half led the Highlanders to victory over the Roadrunners. UCR managed to close out the game 79-69 after a hardfought second half.
Tattersal and Pickett led the charge throughout the game, earning 20 and 21 points respectively. Both performed exceptionally well from deep range, scoring four and five 3-pointers. Pickett earned himself a new season high, beating his previous high of 18 points. His new season high is just one point under his career high. Redshirt junior center Callum Mcrae and Pullin also aided with points, earning 16 and 14, and returning to the court for the first time this season after being injured, was Angus McWilliams, earning his first 2 points of the year.
The momentum generated from their win over the Roadrunners, led the Highlanders to carry it over to their matchup against Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. UCR returned to their home court for the second time this week on Saturday evening. UCR once again generated a very early lead, closing out the first half, 40-28 and ultimately closing out the game with a whopping 20-point lead, 78-58.
The Highlanders return to the SRC arena once again on Thursday Feb. 24. The men’s team only has four games left before the post-season tournament in Las Vegas.