Tritons Pull Out Key Defensive Stops

Freshman forward Justin Brue rises over two Stanislaus defenders to net two of his eight points (John Hanacek/Guardian).

MEN’S BASKETBALL — The UCSD men snapped a three-game losing streak on Jan. 9 when they defeated Cal State Stanislaus 81-72 at RIMAC Arena. The win pulled the Tritons out of a slump that ended with a 77-68 loss to Chico State on Jan. 7. UCSD now stands at 3-7 overall and 2-4 in the California Collegiate Athletic Association.

The Tritons started strong against the Stanislaus Warriors, shooting 54 percent from the field in the first half, sinking 15 of 28 shots and carrying a 14-point lead into the second half.

Though Stanislaus mounted a comeback that cut the Triton lead to a single point several times, they never quite pulled ahead.

Senior guard Jordan Lawley led Triton scoring with 26 points. He also grabbed 10 rebounds and five assists for his first double-double of the season.

Bench players also turned in strong performances: Sophomore guard Jay Wey registered a career-high 13 points, hitting three of five attempts from three-point range.

“I thought we played real well and had great bench production,” senior guard Tyler Acevedo said. “We got some big shots from Jay Wey, who provided a big spark off the bench.”

A high-scoring affair, the game saw the Tritons reach a season best of 81 points — shooting an impressive 56 percent from the field and 88 percent from the free-throw line.

In addition to offensive excellence, Lawley said the persevering Triton defense was the main reason for the team’s victory.

“There were times when [Stanislaus] came back into the game, but we stuck it out on the defensive end, and we got the job done,” Lawley said. “Our offense hasn’t really been key [this season], but we got a glimpse of hope, and things started falling into place.”

The offensive improvement against Stanislaus came on the heels of a bitter defeat to Chico State at RIMAC Arena on Jan. 7. The Tritons trailed by eight points in the second half, before going on a 17-2 tear over the next five minutes to take a 45-38 lead with 15 minutes left. A layup by junior guard Casey Ryan gave the Tritons their biggest lead of the game at 52-44 — but the Tritons were unable to keep their lead.

Chico answered back by outscoring the Tritons 10-2 in the next three minutes to tie the game 54-54, and never relinquished momentum on the road to a 77-68 victory.

Lawley, who made 22 points to lead the Tritons in scoring, lamented the team’s lack of mental preparation.

“We didn’t come out ready to play, and I thought we took it for granted,” Lawley said. “We came out a little flat-footed, and it showed.”

According to Lawley, the Tritons’ early struggles this season can be attributed to the lack of cohesion between the team’s veterans and a handful of new players.

“It’s been tough to get everyone on the same page,” Lawley said. “We lost a lot of chemistry, and nobody really knows how to play with each other yet — especially since we played with all of those graduating seniors for three or four years. It’s been tough to pick up off a team that was so cohesive last year.”

Acevedo agreed. “We had to hit the ground running with all of the young guys coming in,” he said. “I think it’s been a pretty quick adjustment. As far as roles go, [the younger players] are definitely getting a feel for what they need to do. [Lawley] and I have also learned what we have to do as leaders, and everyone is getting very comfortable in their roles.

UCSD will follow up its winning performance against Cal State Stanislaus when it hosts Cal State Monterey Bay on Jan. 14. The game is scheduled to tip off at 7:30 p.m. in RIMAC Arena.

Readers can contact Cameron Tillisch at [email protected].

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