The UC Riverside men’s basketball team defeated Cal Poly this week in a thrilling back and forth game. The Highlander’s were led by their starting backcourt consisting of senior Flynn Cameron and Senior Jamal Hartwell II. The two stars combined for 48 as the Highlanders improved to 6-1 in the Big West marking their best start to conference play in recent years. The contest was more than a little uncomfortable for the Highlanders who had to finish the job in overtime with a push from the amazing UCR home crowd.
The game started off with a fluid, up-tempo pace from UCR as the Highlanders grew and kept an early lead, but Cal Poly’s hot form from three kept the game close. The Highlanders who were struggling early on from three were able to hit back to back shots from deep courtesy of freshman forward Lachlan Olbrich and junior forward Will Tattersall who drained back-to-back threes to get UC Riverside going. Olbrich went into halftime with some good makes and finished the game with 11 points and eight rebounds. The aforementioned threes opened the floodgates from deep for the as UCR opened up a six-point halftime lead by virtue of a late 8-0 run and a 6-for-11 ratio from deep.
The Highlanders came out of the half hot and continued to torch the opposition with the three ball, turning in 57.1 percent of their efforts from deep in the game, a season high. Kyle Owens put in a massively underrated performance for the Highlanders recording his third straight double double with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Flynn Cameron had 25 points on 50 percent shooting also adding six assists leading the way for the Highlanders in both statistics.
Cal Poly again found some waves of momentum in the second half gaining the lead and building on it through their several runs, but the Highlanders were able to stay within a reasonable distance. Jamal Hartwell II drilled his third three of the evening a little past the halfway point of the second half and Owens dropped in a pair of clutch free throws as UCR closed in on Cal Poly’s lead.
Just as Cal Poly seemed to have found the key to breaking through the Highlanders’ defense, Hartwell II was there to close the patch. The reigning Big West Player of the Week scored 20 of his 23 points after halftime, and once again showed his clutch gene by downing multiple clutch shots. The senior transfer student from George Mason continued his hot streak from the floor by shooting above 50 percent in every conference game this season.
UCR was able to close a five-point gap with three minutes remaining, but a back-and-forth regulation period with 10 ties and seven lead changes went to overtime where they were able to build a lead and edge Cal Poly by five in the extra period for their first overtime win of the season. Hartwell II hit the dagger late with a vicious step back three from which had the entire crowd in the SRC Arena hyped and on their feet.
UCR heads to Davis for more conference play before heading back to the SRC arena for two games against Hawaii and UC San Diego on January 21st and 28th respectively, hoping to build on their stellar conference record as they attempt to gain the highest seed possible for the Big West tournament starting in March.