Tritons gobble down victory, stomach loss

While everyone else busied in preparation for Thanksgiving festivities, the members of the UCSD men’s basketball team spent their holiday playing two games in preparation for the California Collegiate Athletic Association season.

The Tritons, in the midst of a nine-game season-opening road trip, traveled to Pomona-Pitzer University on Nov. 23 and defeated the Sagehens 54-47 for their first win of the season. On Nov. 25, the Tritons were in Phoenix to take on Grand Canyon University, where UCSD lost by a score of 72-60 after falling behind by 19 points early in the game.

The Antelopes opened up a 19-0 lead in the first seven minutes of play due to four early three-pointers — two by Noe Alonzo — and three layups in a one-minute span by Bryan Lee. UCSD freshmen forwards A.J. Maulhardt and Henry Patterson and freshman guard Shane Poppen put the first points on the board for the Tritons as part of a 12-2 run, which brought the team within nine after the early deficit. Just as Grand Canyon seemed to have taken back the momentum, holding a 15-point lead with under four minutes to play in the half, UCSD made another charge, pulling to within eight before going into the half down 34-24.

UCSD scored the first basket of the second half on a jumper by Patterson, but the Antelopes then began to increase their lead. Up again by 19 with 13 minutes, 45 seconds left to play in the game on their home court, Grand Canyon seemed poised for a true “stuffing.” However, the Tritons proved unwilling to simply give up. Using the tactic that initially got Grand Canyon its early lead, UCSD started dialing in from long distance with one three-pointer by Poppen and two apiece from sophomore guards Clint Allard and Jason Bull. Patterson’s layup at the 4:37 mark capped the 25-8 run and brought the Tritons within three, the closest they had been since the opening minutes of the game.

Unfortunately, head coach Bill Carr’s squad never was able to capture the lead or the tie as the Antelopes went an astonishing 11-of-12 from the free-throw line down the stretch to finish with a 12-point victory.

Grand Canyon benefited from double-digit scoring efforts by all five of its starters, led by Jason Stromvall’s 16 points and game-high eight rebounds. The Antelopes also shot more than 50 percent from the field, along with going 40 percent from the three-point range and 88 percent from the line. The Tritons were led by Patterson’s game-high 19 points and sophomore guard Andrew Hatch’s five points, five assists and six rebounds, which tied Patterson for the team-high in rebounds from the point guard position. While the Tritons held tough, losing the rebound battle by a slight margin (27-26) against a strong Grand Canyon squad, which improved its record to 3-1 on the season, they suffered from a cold shooting night, going 40 percent from the field and below 30 percent from three-point range.

The pre-turkey results were more successful for UCSD at Pomona-Pitzer University on Nov. 23. Although trailing for only 30 seconds in the first half, the Tritons were unable to open up much of a lead against the Sagehens. A layup and two free throws by Allard in the last two and a half minutes of the half was enough to give UCSD a five-point lead at the break. The second half went much like the first, with the Tritons leading for all but 34 seconds, but lacking the ability to open up a comfortable lead. At the 4:10 mark, UCSD’s lead was down to one point after Sagehen reserve Thomas Hollo’s layup made the score 46-45. The Tritons, however, demonstrated the pillars of their team with stout defense and teamwork as they went on an 8-2 run in the final four minutes, with four different players scoring for UCSD.

Allard led the way for the Tritons in their first win of the season, tying the game-high and his career-high with 18 points while also dishing out a game-high six assists.

Junior guard Robby Peters also scored in double-digits for the Tritons with 11 points, while sophomore Drew Spaventa notched a game-high five rebounds. The Tritons only allowed one double-digit point total from the Pomona-Pitzer squad, with Ed Wexler-Baron tying Allard and Spaventa for game-highs of 18 points and five rebounds.

UCSD will begin CCAA play on Dec. 2 with a game against Cal State Bakersfield at Rabobank Arena.

Last year, the Tritons scored a huge 66-60 victory over the Roadrunners, their first win in 12 prior matchups. The following evening, the Tritons will take on Cal State Los Angeles.