Triton Men Looking to Return to Postseason

MEN’S BASKETBALL — The UCSD Men’s Basketball team won’t be able to rely on Jordan Lawley this year, but it hasn’t proven to be a problem yet. The guard — who led the conference in scoring last season — has graduated, but the Tritons are off to a hot start with a 5-1 record through their non-conference schedule.

“When you look at Jordan [Lawley]’s point production, that’s a big thing you have to replace,” head coach Chris Carlson said. “But I really like this group. I think we’ll be a little more balanced than we were last year, and I think that’s where we need to be.”

The Tritons return two starters, senior guard Casey Ryan and junior center Christian Hatch. Justin Brue, a 6’4” sophomore small forward is now a starter after playing as a sixth man last season. But the biggest development this season has been the play of freshman James McCann, who — despite being listed at 5’10” and 165 pounds — has won the starting job at point guard and led the team with 13 points per game through the first six games.

“All the new guys are fitting in well,” Brue said. “It’s all about working together.”

Ryan and Hatch have stepped up their production, and each is averaging over 11 points a game this year. Hatch has combined with junior center Ryan Wheeler to give the Tritons a formidable inside presence. Sophomore transfer Ryan Peters has secured the other starting spot at guard after coming to UCSD from Lehigh University in the offseason.

“We’re not where we need to be, but we’re on that road,” Carlson said. “All I ask  from them is effort and to be coachable, and with that we can find success.”

Through six games this season, the Tritons are averaging 66 points per game in 44 percent shooting. But the CCAA is one of the nation’s toughest conferences, and includes last season’s national champion in Cal Poly Pomona.

The Tritons are coming off a tough 2009-10 campaign, having finished 8-17 and failed to make the postseason. Their record marked Carlson’s first losing season as a Triton as he enters his fourth year at the helm. Lawley was consistently the best player on the court, averaging more than 20 points per game and often racking up game-high point totals. This was the first time a Triton has led the CCAA in scoring since UCSD joined the conference in 2001. However, no other Triton averaged more than eight points per game, and the squad found it difficult to stay in high-scoring games.

This year, Carlson believes his team has the ability to employ a variety of different skills.

“The name of the game in our conference is having some versatility,” Carlson said. “I think there are times when we can look to push it and times when we need to be more in the half court. It depends who we’re playing against. This league is so wide and varied in style, and the team that has the most success is the team that has the ability to play in the different styles. That’s not easy to do.”

The Tritons open their conference schedule against Cal State Monterey Bay on Dec. 3 at 7:30 p.m. in Seaside, CA.