Tritons Force Overtime, But Fall to Chapman

    Good things do not come in threes for the Tritons. After taking two games in extra periods earlier this season, UCSD dropped a heartbreaker in its final nonconference game, losing to Chapman, 70-64, in overtime on Jan. 31.

    Greg Dale/Guardian file
    Freshman forward Henry Patterson and the Tritons worked hard to force overtime after an early deficit, but couldn’t put the finishing touch on the comeback, losing to Chapman 70-64

    The game started looking more like a blowout than a thriller in the first half, as the Tritons fell behind by nine in the first two minutes and were never closer than five points after the early Chapman run.

    While the Panthers could not put UCSD away in front of the hometown crowd inside Hutton Sports Arena, they did grab a double-digit lead midway through the first half, and pushed their advantage to as much as 15.

    “That’s two games in a row with slow starts, and there is no real explanation, [except] that the other team has been the aggressor both nights,” sophomore guard Clint Allard said about the Tritons’ first-half performance.

    Freshman guard Shane Poppen helped UCSD avoid being decimated, coming off the bench to score nine of the Tritons’ 21 first-half points.

    “I really focused on driving the lane, getting by the defender, pretty much getting to the rim,” said Poppen, who has bounced between the starting lineup and the bench this season. “This led to free throws and layups, which are high-percentage shots. Whether I am starting or coming off the bench, I am equally comfortable. [I’m] just trying to help the team anyway I can.”

    Coming out of halftime, down by 13, the Tritons exhibited that team mentality, staging a much-needed comeback for the second-consecutive game. With Poppen adding four more points and the team playing staunch defense and moving the ball effectively, the Tritons matched their first-half output just over six minutes into the second half. With its defense allowing only seven points in that stretch, UCSD now found itself with an improbable 42-41 lead.

    “We were more aggressive, we had more energy and we started to play defense,” senior guard Odioh Odiye said.

    Any cobwebs present during UCSD’s slow start seemed to have been brushed away, as the team held on to its lead.

    While never extending to a truly comfortable lead, the young Triton squad played poised basketball and stayed in front for most of the second half. However, with less than five minutes left, the Panthers pounced, regaining the lead with seven-straight points. Not phased by the new deficit, the Tritons executed perfectly after the Panthers’ Patrick Carney missed his second free throw.

    “We pushed the ball in transition after a missed free throw, and I was able to get free for a relatively unguarded lane to the basket,” Allard said, describing his game-tying basket with 41 seconds left to play. “When [Chapman] came back down, we recognized they were running the same play that they had just run, and so we switched the screens and I was able to get my hand on the ball as the bigger offensive player was dribbling.”

    Allard’s steal preserved the 58-58 tie as time ran out. With momentum again on their side, the Tritons seemed prepared to finish off the hard-fought game in the extra period.

    “I feel confident in overtime,” Odiye said. “We [look] at it as another opportunity to win the game.”

    Unfortunately, the opportunity faded quickly, as Carney knocked down two early free throws and Chapman scored the first six points of the overtime period. UCSD was unable to get on track. After missing only one free throw during the first and second half, the team missed three in overtime, while going 1-for-7 from the floor and committing two turnovers. At the final buzzer, the Tritons found themselves outscored 12-6 in the final period.

    Panthers senior guard Greg Perrine led all scorers with 22 points, while junior guard Carney added 16 and John Flynn-Brown had 15 off the bench for the Panthers. Poppen finished the game as the leading Triton scorer, tying his career high with 15 points, while also grabbing four rebounds.

    Allard was the only other UCSD player to score in double digits, with 10 points alongside team highs of five rebounds and four assists in the losing effort.

    “Fatigue definitely set in, as this is a tough stretch of games, and this particular game was mainly up-tempo, but that is no excuse for us not executing in the overtime period,” Allard said, accepting his own part of the blame after missing his three overtime field-goal attempts. “As a team, we have to study what went wrong and make some changes. It was a tough loss, but we have to keep our heads up and be ready for this weekend, because we have some very important games coming up.”

    Possibly the most important of those upcoming games is on Feb. 3, when the Tritons return home to face Cal State Los Angeles for UCSD’s Spirit Night.

    RIMAC Arena will surely be packed and fans will be loud in their support of both the men’s and women’s basketball teams during the annual competition, which pits the six colleges against each other in hopes of winning the “Cup O’ Cheer.”

    “From what I have heard, the gym is packed and there is a lot of excitement in the atmosphere,” Poppen said. “There is an added level of excitement knowing you will be playing in front of a huge audience. As [an] athlete, fans are one of the main reasons I play this game. It is a thrill to go out and have a ‘sixth man’ on your side, cheering you on to victory.”

    UCSD will have the opportunity to give the home crowd two wins this weekend, with a Feb. 4 matchup against Cal State Bakersfield also on the weekend schedule.

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