Winter Offers No Breaks for Men's Basketball

    Erik Jepsen/Guardian file
    Junior guard Clint Allard breaks free for an easy layup, but Allard’s strong play of late hasn’t helped the Tritons improve their record, which now stands at 3-7 after the team’s furth straight loss.

    The UCSD men’s basketball team will be looking for a reversal of fortune in the new year after enduring a four-game losing streak over winter break, losing three of those games by a combined 17 points. Following a 76-72 win over California Collegiate Athletic Association foe Cal State Stanislaus at home on Dec. 2, the Tritons’ woes began with a 50-53 loss to nonconference opponent Hawaii Pacific at home, a 51-60 loss to Cal State Dominguez Hills, a 76-90 loss to Humboldt State and a 70-75 loss to Sonoma State Jan. 6, with all three games taking place away from RIMAC Arena. UCSD, now 3-7 overall, 1-4 in CCAA action, went through a similar five-game losing streak on the road at the end of November and during the month of December last season and rebounded to post the program’s best record in Division II history.

    Against Sonoma State, the Tritons got an indication of things to come as J.T. Tipton, an All-CCAA First-Team member last season, scored the first five points of the game to give the Seawolves the early lead. The Tritons responded with a layup by junior guard Clint Allard and three-pointer by sophomore forward Darryl Lawlor to tie things up. UCSD would remain close throughout the first half, tying the score three more times. Despite never trailing in the half, the Seawolves were unable to extend their lead by more than seven points and went into the half with a 35-30 advantage.

    UCSD kept it close to start the second, but could never grab the lead, with the Seawolves finally opening up a double-digit lead midway through the half. The Tritons fought to stay close, never trailing by more than 12. A 7-0 run led by sophomore guards Kelvin Kim and Alan Husted and freshman guard Jordan Lawley brought UCSD within five with 23 seconds to play. Sonoma State’s Andrew Kochevar hit both of his free-throw attempts and Jeff Fuller hit one-of-two to hold on for the five-point win.

    “”We had no answer for [Tipton],”” Allard said. “”We tried fronting him in the post, playing behind him, double-teaming him, but once he got in a groove and we got in foul trouble with our big men, there wasn’t much we could do.””

    Tipton led all scorers with a new career high of 38 points – many of which came at the charity stripe with a school record 18 free throws made. Tipton also recorded a game-high 13 rebounds and added three assists. No other Sonoma State player achieved double digits in either points or rebounds. As a team, the Seawolves out-rebounded the Tritons only slightly, 29-27, but shot an impressive 55 percent from the field and converted 26 of their 36 free-throw attempts.

    Allard led the Tritons with a great game, notching team highs of 20 points and five rebounds and game highs of four assists and three steals. Sophomore forward Henry Patterson was the only other Triton in double figures, with 11 points in only his third game after breaking a bone in his face during UCSD’s near-upset in an exhibition game against the University of San Diego. Sophomore forward Shane Poppen, senior guard Robby Peters and Kim added eight points apiece.

    Humboldt State controlled the Tritons with a more balanced scoring attack and incredibly hot shooting. The Tritons and Lumberjacks battled throughout the first half with 13 lead changes. While the Lumberjacks shot nearly 70 percent from the field in the first half, the Tritons kept pace by working for eight more shot attempts than their opponents and nailing a strong 50 percent of their shots.

    Unfortunately, while the Lumberjacks cooled to 50 percent shooting in the second half, UCSD shot just over 44 percent from the field and only two-for-10 shooting from three-point range. Humboldt State grabbed a double-digit lead within the first five minutes, and UCSD never got closer than nine in the game.

    All five starters for the Lumberjacks scored in double digits, led by a game-high 19 from center Devin Peal and 18 from forward Grayson Moyer. Peal also led all players with seven rebounds while Jeremiah Ward was the game leader in both assists and steals with six and four, respectively.

    Aside from their 58.5 percent shooting from the field, the Lumberjacks also dominated the boards 35-27.

    The Tritons had four players in double-figure scoring, led by a season-high 15 points from Patterson, 13 points and five assists from Allard, 11 points from Peters and 10 by Jordan Lawley off the bench. Poppen and Lawlor added nine and eight points, respectively.

    The Tritons were strong in the opening half against Cal State Dominguez Hills, opening the game with three-pointers on their first three possessions. UCSD would lead by as many as 13 points in the first half, but a dry spell in the last five minutes of the half allowed the Toros to cut the lead to seven at intermission.

    “”Henry helped us tremendously because he is another offensive threat that takes the focus of the defense, so if he is one-on-one in the post, they can not stop him, and if they send more than one guy, one of our shooters is bound to be open,”” said Allard, who had one of the team’s seven first-half three-pointers en route to the early advantage.

    The Tritons extended the lead to seven in the first two and a half minutes, but then the Toros exploded with a 21-2 run in the next 10 minutes of play, grabbing a 10-point lead and completely changing the game. UCSD would fight back to within two with just under four minutes left after two steals leading to back-to-back Allard layups. Unfortunately, the Tritons went cold again and couldn’t complete the comeback, as Cal State Dominguez Hills closed the door with a 9-2 run to end the game.

    Peters led the Tritons with a game-high 12 points on four first-half three-pointers, while Allard added 11 points and a team-high six rebounds and five assists. Patterson, in his first game back from an injury, scored 11 points and grabbed three rebounds in 28 minutes of play. On the other side, Cal State Dominguez Hills benefited from four double-digit scorers including a 10-point, 13-rebound, two-block effort from Jamaal Barnes.

    Against Hawaii Pacific University, the Tritons came out slow after a week of finals, falling behind by nine early on, but were able to battle back and went into the half down only one. The teams exchanged leads multiple times throughout the second with the biggest advantage being a four-point UCSD lead with 11:51 left to play. As the game wound down, a steal and two free throws by Allard gave the Tritons a 50-49 lead with 1:21 remaining. Unfortunately, a shot clock violation and missed three-point attempt by UCSD, coupled with four free throws from the Sea Warriors, gave Hawaii Pacific University the three-point win.

    Allard and Peters led UCSD, each with a game-high 12 points, while Lawlor added five points and a team-high five rebounds and Kim had six points and a team-high five assists. The Sea Warriors, with three players scoring in double figures, benefited from a 29-20 advantage on the boards and from shooting 54.1 percent from the field, compared to only 34 percent by the Tritons.

    Despite their percentages, UCSD was able to stay close with seven steals and nine-of-10 shooting from the free-throw line.

    “”We just have to make sure that we don’t splinter apart and we stay a tight-knit group,”” Allard said of the team’s early season struggles. “”A few adjustments need to be made, but right now the feeling is that we just need to catch maybe one break and we can start a winning streak of our own. The fact that we went through a similar thing last year has taught us not to panic. That being said, we were hoping we learned our lesson about having slow starts from last season.””

    UCSD will be looking to catch its needed break as it finishes its current five-game road trip next weekend with a game at Cal State Los Angeles on Jan. 19 and another at Cal State Bakersfield on Jan. 20.

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