Matthew Au, CW

The UC Riverside men’s basketball team bested Loyola Marymount University 81-79 on Thursday night in Los Angeles. After losing to Colorado University earlier in the week, UCR looked to redeem itself with a tough road game against LMU. In a nail-biting victory, the Highlanders made an impressive half-time comeback to secure their first win of the season. 

Courtesy of Loyola Marymount Athletics

Sophomore Jhaylon Martinez started it off for UCR scoring a layup after failing a previous attempt but winning the rebound. The Lions retaliated by securing an early 7-2 lead with a successful three-pointer and jump shot. As UC Riverside continued to closely trail, the Lions slowly pulled forward with three consecutive three-point shots to gain an 11-point lead of 30-19 with 7:43 left. In response, senior guard Zyon Pullin and freshman forward Olbrich Lachlan each scored two points in an attempt to halt the growing disadvantage. Without warning, Loyola put on the board an additional five points as halftime neared. With a subsequent turnover by UCR, graduate and sophomore forwards Kyle Owens and Luke Turner were substituted in, helping Pullin score two free throw points, followed by a triple from graduate guard Flynn Cameron. As UCR and LMU continued alternating on shots made, the Lions were ultimately able to score the final five points bringing the first half to a close with an 18-point lead of 34-52. 

Right off the start, LMU scored an easy two points which Owens met with five consecutive points within a 33-second span for UCR. Nearing the 18:00 mark, UCR opened an undisturbed 12-point comeback with two-point sinkers, free throws, and three-pointers from Olbrich, Owens, and Cameron. With a sudden catch-up, LMU subbed three of their halftime starters with their star players in an attempt to halt the Highlander’s unprecedented advance. As both teams continued scoring layups and jump shots, UCR consistently made free throws that kept them in a tight race with LMU. As 18 points soon dwindled to six, Pullin, graduate guard Jamal Hartwell II, and sophomore forward Vladimer Salaridze finally secured the first lead UCR had on LMU the entire game at 74-72 with 3:08 left. In the final two minutes, LMU was able to score a layup and free throw for a one-point lead on UCR. It ultimately came down to Pullin who scored a three-pointer with 0:29 remaining for a two-point lead. As the Lions scored their final two points, tying the game at 79-79. However, Pullin in the final second of the game scored a jump shot that put UCR in the lead 81-79. 

Pullin finished the game as the Highlander’s lead scorer with 23 points, one point away from his all-time record. Cameron and Owens both put up 11 points throughout the game with Cameron making three steals, two of them crucial game-changers during UCR’s scorestreak. UCR ultimately scored a total of 20 free throws with a 69% accuracy, making nearly a quarter of their total points scored. 

As the Highlanders continue with their preseason, they look forward to competing against Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska next Thursday.