After putting together its longest winning streak since the 2008–2009 season, the UCSD men’s basketball team fell to No. 4 nationally ranked Cal Poly Pomona 53–70.
On Friday, Feb. 8, for Spirit Night, the Tritons faced Humboldt State in front of a crowd of nearly 3,900. The Tritons took the 71–60 win on consistent shooting from the perimeter and the merit of their ever-expanding bench.
“I think we have a great deal of confidence right now,” UCSD head coach Chris Carlson said. “I think we have a great deal of belief in one another, which we’ve had all year, but the fact that we’ve had some success — we wanna taste more of it, and we’re going to continue to work at it so we can get better. I think that’s really important at this time of the season.”
Carlson explored the depth of a young Triton bench, switching between a bigger lineup — pairing senior forwards Colin Porter and Justin Brue, alongside freshman standout Drew Dyer — or alternately, freshman guard Hunter Walker alongside senior guard Ryan Peters and junior guard Matt Bailey. Senior shooting guard and UCSD’s top scorer, Tyler McGrath and junior point guard James McCann remained constant throughout.
Like the majority of the season, the Tritons relied on their backcourt to generate offense. McGrath slated a game-high 18 points and McCann finished with 17 points, while Peters ended with 14. However, against Humboldt, with Brue recently recovered from surgery for a broken nose, UCSD had the option of rotating in a more-experienced Porter — a defensive threat more than anything else — to give Dyer and Brue some rest.
Humboldt maintained a fullcourt press throughout, something the Tritons struggled with initially. UCSD retired from the first half with a slight 30–29 lead but broke out in the second half.
“I think that it was big for us in the second half to be able to pick apart that press,” McCann said. “We knew we were behind, so we were able to get the ball in the front court and make some plays from there.”
On Saturday, the Tritons remained close in the first half, shooting a stellar 56.5 percent from the field, but the Broncos went on a 10–0 run to start the second period, effectively smothering any chance of a Triton comeback.
“It’s a different situation than against any other team in the league,” Carlson said. “You have to find ways to score to really put them on their heels. If you don’t find ways to score, even a 6-point lead can feel like a 12-point lead or a 20-point lead. In the second half, we just couldn’t score — we couldn’t make shots, and they did at a high clip.”
In the second half, UCSD shot a poor 31.8 percent from the field and sunk just one out of seven threepoint opportunities. McCann and Walker were the only two Tritons to record in double digits. McCann finished with 10 points, while Walker scored 14 points in his 24 minutes on the court.
“Walker’s growth has been fantastic,” Carlson said. “He’s been a great teammate throughout; he’s been a good worker, really got a good grasp of what we’re trying to do here at UCSD — and the future’s now, because we really need him to play — and play well.”
The Tritons, 8–8 in the CCAA, head on the road for their next pair of games. UCSD will face Cal State Stanislaus this Friday, Feb. 15 and Chico State on Feb. 16.