Buzzer Beater Boots Toros

It might not be Spirit Night yet, but sophomore guard Kelvin Kim and the UCSD men’s basketball team gave the home fans something to cheer about.

Sophomore guard Kelvin Kim’s free throw in the last five seconds of the game secured the the 45-44 win over Cal State Dominguez Hills to up the Triton win streak to three games.

Kim, a UCLA transfer, came up with a clutch steal and drew a foul as the final buzzer sounded, hitting one of two free throws with less than one second put back on the clock, giving UCSD a 45-44 win over Cal State Dominguez Hills on Feb. 6 in RIMAC Arena.

“”I looked up at the clock and there was like three seconds left, and I knew that was plenty of time to get down there,”” Kim said, who finished the game with 10 points, two rebounds and a game-high five assists in 31 minutes of play. “”I had never run that fast in a game before. It was such an open lane, and I knew the game was on the line, so I just took it to the hole.””

The Tritons, who improved to 9-10 overall and 7-7 in the California Collegiate Athletic Association, opened the contest with a three-pointer by senior guard Robby Peters on their first offensive possession. It would be the first of four three-pointers in the game for Peters – all coming before halftime, nearly outscoreing the entire Toro team in the first half. The Triton defense, ranked third in the CCAA, held Dominguez Hills to 14 points on five field goals before the break, while the Toros, with their fifth-ranked CCAA defense, limited UCSD to six field goals, five of them from beyond the arc, and 21 points before the break.

“”The first time we played them, we got out to a nice lead, and then they fought back because of their strength, athleticism and length,”” head coach Bill Carr said. “”They’ve got good players and tonight we knew that they were going to come back. We got out to a nine-point lead and they methodically came back on us, just like last time, but we were able to pull it out.””

That nine-point lead, 42-33, came with under five minutes to play after back-to-back-to-back three-pointers, two from Kim and one from junior guard Clint Allard, in a span of just over one and a half minutes. The Toros, who put together a 7-0 run earlier in the half to tie the game, went on a 9-0 run over the next three minutes thanks to some full-court pressure, tying the game at 42 with one minute, 53 seconds to play. UCSD freshman guard Jordan Lawley and Dominguez Hills senior guard Shamont Brown then exchanged free throws, leaving the Tritons in a tied game with the ball and one minute to play. Dominguez Hills would then have an opportunity to win, or at the very least force overtime, after junior guard Mike Steed stole a pass from Kim and the Toros called a timeout with 24.2 seconds to play.

Coming out of the timeout, Cal State Dominguez Hills let the clock run down to nine seconds before making a move for the final shot where, once in the lane, Kim returned the favor by stripping Steed with just over three seconds to play, driving the length of the court, and drawing a foul from Steed, with the whistle and final buzzer blowing at the same time.

“”I’ve had big shots in high school, but just with the magnitude of this game and how important it was to us, I think this was the biggest shot I’ve ever hit,”” Kim said. He had missed the first before calmly knocking down the second shot and was mobbed by his teammates after a lob pass by the Toros was knocked down to end the game.

Aside from Kim’s clutch play, UCSD was led by a team-high 14 points from Peters, eight points in 18 minutes off the bench for Lawley and a team-high six rebounds to go along with seven points from Allard. Coming off of a Feb. 3 game at Chico State where they went 0-for-6 from three-point range, the Tritons excelled from behind the arc with nine of the 13 field goals coming from downtown. UCSD also benefited from a solid 10-man rotation that held the Toros to 34 percent shooting from the field and a season-low 44 points.

“”Our depth is starting to help us,”” Carr said. “”[Sophomore center] AJ [Maulhardt] played 10 minutes for us tonight and did a good job. [Freshman forward] Andrew Browning is coming off the bench and doing a nice job for us. Jordan is coming in and playing more minutes. The more guys that we can play – it only helps rest some of our starters.””

The Tritons will look to extend their season-best three-game winning streak this weekend when they host Sonoma State on Feb. 9, as part of the annual Triton Spirit Night event. UCSD will then continue its five-game homestand on Feb. 10 as host to No. 15 Humboldt State. Both games are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. tip-offs.