Road-Weary Basketball Team Pulls Off Two League Wins

The Tritons might have been on the road again, but since they’ve already spent a good amount of this season traveling, it didn’t seem to matter much. On the evening of Feb. 10 at Acker Gym in Chico, Calif., UCSD defeated Chico State 70-56, completing a season sweep of a team that had beaten the Tritons by an average of 21 points last year. The next day, the Tritons avenged a 79-75 home loss to Cal State Stanislaus by defeating the Warriors, 81-77, in front of 1,232 fans at Warrior Arena. UCSD’s record now stands at 11-12 overall and 8-6 in California Collegiate Athletic Association play.

The Tritons were prepared for Cal State Stanislaus in their Saturday contest, where Stanislaus’ CCAA top-ranked offense was set to meet UCSD’s top-ranked defense.

“They beat [Cal State San] Bernardino last night, so they’re coming off a hot game,” junior guard Robby Peters said. “They’re going to have a lot of confidence, so we have to get rid of that early — come in and make a strong statement.”

The initial statement wasn’t nearly as strong as UCSD had hoped, falling behind by 11 with seven minutes played in the first half. However, the Tritons went on a 10-3 run to cut the lead to 22-18 with 9:12 remaining in the half, led by freshman forward Henry Patterson, who made seven shots from the field and three from the free-throw line. Cal State Stanislaus responded by slowly expanding its lead again, taking another double-digit advantage two minutes later.

“Night in and night out we play teams that are more athletic than us, but we’ve proven we can beat these teams by playing poised and smarter than them,” said sophomore guard Andrew Hatch.

The poise of the entire team and coaching staff was on display in the final 7:36 of the half. Using 11 substitutions, head coach Bill Carr consistently sent fresh legs onto the court, and the team responded with a 15-4 run that gave the Tritons a 35-34 advantage going into the half.

Coming out of the locker room, the Tritons hoped to continue the momentum. Unfortunately, the team could not use a run to take a sizable advantage. After 15 second-half lead changes, no team led by more than four points. However, at the 40-second mark, freshman guard Shane Poppen’s jumper gave UCSD a 77-72 advantage and some breathing room. As was expected from the tightly contested game, Stanislaus made one last charge, climbing to within two after a Joel Stallworth layup. However, sophomore guard Clint Allard made 2-of-4 free throws in the final 14 seconds and rebounded Marcus Martinez’s three-point attempt to secure the road win.

“Winning on the road adds to our confidence [and] beating a team that trash talks like Stanislaus just makes us feel good about ourselves,” Hatch said. “Tonight we responded by systematically beating them. Getting a dunk gets them going, so we respond by getting a wide open layup or three and just continuing to play. I would like to believe we let our game speak for itself.”

The game against Stanislaus spoke to the Tritons’ balanced squad, with six Tritons scoring at least eight points. Patterson led the way with 20 points, while Poppen contributed 13 as well as a game-high seven rebounds. Sophomore guard Jason Bull came off the bench with a career-high 13 points in 13 minutes while Allard, Hatch and senior guard Odioh Odiye added eight points apiece. While the Stanislaus players shot a solid 47.3 percent from the field, UCSD beat them at their own game, converting 54.9 percent of its field goals, including 5-of-11 from three-point range.

The three-pointer played an even bigger role in Feb. 10’s game against Chico State, as Peters placed his name in UCSD record books with an impressive eight three-pointers, good for second-most all-time.

“My first shot was an air-ball and my first two [three-pointers] didn’t feel that great, but after that I just got going,” Peters said. “I got in one of those zones where everything feels good coming off the hands. It’s a fun way to play when you feel like that.”

The Tritons also took a while to heat up, allowing a 7-0 run by Chico State to start the game. After tying the game at 11, UCSD got its first lead with 10:53 to play after a Hatch jumper. However, the Wildcats’ Justin Argenal responded with a three to give Chico State a 14-13 advantage.

“There was definitely a revenge factor on the minds of the returning players from last year. Last year we were young and their veteran group dominated us,” Hatch said.

Revenge was sweet, as Chico State would never lead again in the game. UCSD went up by as much as eight in the first half, before an 8-2 Wildcat run left the game tied, 30-30, at intermission. After the break, the Tritons refused to let Chico State continue its run, forcing an early turnover and scoring the first basket of the half on an Allard layup. The Tritons expanded their lead to double-digits at the 13:02 mark, and though the Wildcats climbed back to within three, they never found a way to contain Peters. After missing his first shot from long distance, Peters connected on five from downtown and totaled 18 second-half points.

Peters totaled a career-high 27 in the contest, while Allard added 13 points, a game-high seven rebounds and five assists. As a team, the Tritons shot 53.2 percent from the field, 60.1 percent in the second half, and forced 21 Chico State turnovers.

UCSD now has a chance to set a new mark for Division-II wins aganst Cal State San Bernardino on Feb. 15 at home.