Defense Pushes Tritons Over Otters

If defense does in fact win championships, then the UCSD men’s basketball squad has big things in its future.

Leading the California Collegiate Athletic Association in scoring defense, the Tritons forced 12 turnovers while committing only five of their own and clamped down in the final minute, gaining a 67-62 victory over Cal State Monterey Bay on Jan. 14. Following a 64-42 loss at Cal State San Bernardino on Jan. 11, the Tritons recovered by holding the Otters to below 35 percent shooting from the field.

With the lead changing nine times in the first half, neither team was able to take a significant advantage. The Tritons, who began the game with four guards and freshman Henry Patterson at forward, were led early on by another freshman forward, Darryl Lawlor, who scored nine of his 10 points off the bench in the first half. UCSD took a 31-26 lead into halftime by going on an 11-4 run in the final four minutes.

The Tritons held onto their momentum after halftime as they extended their lead to 10 with 16 minutes, 48 seconds left to play in the game. Unfortunately, UCSD was unable to club the Otters into submission, as back-to-back three-pointers brought Monterey Bay to within four. UCSD wouldn’t hold a double-digit lead for the rest of the game, but was able to stay slightly in front of Monterey Bay thanks to a balanced team effort that saw scoring contributions from seven players. However, four successful free throws by the Otters tied the score with 3:19 left to play.

“We were in control of the game for most of the night, and though we have lost some close ones, I had a good feeling we’d finish them off,” sophomore guard Clint Allard said.

Allard was fouled after rebounding his own missed shot and converted both of his chances at the line. Monterey Bay center Devoughn Lamont and forward Richard Jenkins would both make 1-of-2 free throws to tie the score again at 62. After a UCSD timeout it was Allard again, nailing a three-pointer off junior guard Robby Peters’ assist to give the Tritons a lead from which they’d never look back.

“The play at the timeout was designed for Odioh Odiye to get the ball on the inbound and take it to the basket since we had little time on the shot clock,” Allard said. “When he was covered and the ball came to me, I just knew I had to create a shot for myself with little time left, and thankfully it went in.”

The UCSD defense took care of the lead the rest of the way, forcing three missed shots by Monterey Bay before Allard, who had scored only six points until the final three-minute stretch, iced the game with two more free throws.

“I had been held down offensively most of the game and my teammates had picked me up,” Allard said. “We really deserved that win, so to be able to come through down the stretch and help win the game was definitely one of my proudest moments in college basketball.”

Peters joined Allard and Lawlor in double-digit scoring, leading the team with a game-high 16 points on 4-of-10 shooting from three-point range. Allard neared a double-double with a team-high nine rebounds. Freshman guard Shane Poppen chipped in seven points and five rebounds, while sophomore guard Andrew Hatch came in off the bench to add seven points, three rebounds and an important block in the last minute of the game.

The Triton attack withstood five Monterey Bay players scoring at least nine points. Lamont led the Otters with 13 points, Jenkins had 10 points, nine rebounds and six assists, and forward Jay Demaestri dominated the boards with a game-high 19 rebounds to go along with his 12 points and four blocks.

Despite losing the rebounding battle 34-54 and shooting only 37.3 percent from the field, UCSD’s season-low five turnovers and solid 42.9 percent long-distance shooting were enough to earn the Tritons their second CCAA win.

UCSD’s fourth CCAA loss came against Cal State San Bernardino three days earlier when an amazing second-half shooting performance was not enough to overcome a poor first half offensively and the lack of a three-point threat.

Despite only leading once in the first half after a three-point play by senior guard Odioh Odiye, the Tritons stayed within range of the Coyotes for much of the starting period, down only six points with just over five minutes to play in the half. However, a steal and dunk by Coyotes reserve Yoseph Yaisrael began a 10-2 run that left the score 29-15 at intermission.

The Tritons shot only 29.4 percent from the field in the first half, while San Bernardino shot 54.5 percent. While UCSD improved to a 57.1 field-goal percentage in the second half, the Coyotes continued to be accurate, converting 46.7 percent of their field goals, including seven three-pointers. The Tritons, who were unable to convert a three-point shot and took only three in the game, got no closer than the 14-point halftime deficit, and fell behind by as much as 30. UCSD’s own 10-2 run in the game’s last three minutes cut the Coyotes margin of victory to 22.

Curtis Williams scored a game-high 13 points for San Bernardino and Chet Johnson was perfect from the field, going 4-for-4, including 2-for-2 from long distance, to notch 10 points. UCSD freshman forward A.J. Maulhardt was also 4-for-4 from the field, leading the Tritons with eight points and five rebounds in 13 minutes off the bench. The Tritons had 21 turnovers, 15 courtesy of Coyote steals. However, UCSD did win the rebounding battle, 27-26, and 64 points was still below the team’s 65.1 scoring defense average, the lowest in the CCAA.

“After such a great team effort on Saturday, I think we just got feeling too good about ourselves,” Allard said. “We are capable of beating any team, but you have to put in the preparation and the effort before each game in our league or else the opposition will bury you, and we got a taste of that on Wednesday. Hopefully we can learn from [the loss] so it won’t happen again.”

The Tritons will have their next chance to show what they have learned this season as they return home to take on Cal State Dominguez Hills on Jan. 20 and Cal Poly Pomona on Jan. 21. Both games are scheduled for a 7:30 p.m. start in RIMAC Arena.