Statement Games

The UCSD men’s basketball team split its weekend games against two of the conference’s top teams, beating Cal State L.A. 76-73 in a back-and-forth double overtime game before losing a tight 57-49 affair with No. 7 Cal State Dominguez Hills.

On Thursday night against Cal State Los Angeles, junior center Christian Hatch led the way with 26 points and 13 rebounds, while senior guard Casey Ryan added 12 points and a career-high 20 boards. Sophomore forward Justin Brue had 17 points, five rebounds and four assists for the Tritons.

The Tritons came out hot, shooting 43 percent in the first half. UCSD effectively broke the Golden Eagles’ press and played well defensively, going into the half with a 35-27 lead.

But the Golden Eagles clamped down in the second half, and limited the Tritons to 33 percent shooting while shooting 54 percent themselves. CSULA’s 6’6” forward David Norris came alive as well, scoring 16 of his 24 points in the half. Norris’s three-pointer with 8:24 remaining tied the score at 48.

A Christian Hatch bucket tied the score 59-59 with 1:01 left on the clock. The Tritons forced Norris into a tough shot and got the defensive stop, and held for the final shot without calling a timeout. Hatch’s jumper missed, and the Tritons were unable to get another shot off before the buzzer sounded, despite an offensive rebound.

Neither team played well in the first overtime, but the Golden Eagles hit their free throws to take a five-point lead with 1:18 left. Brue hit a jumper for the Tritons to bring the score to 66-63, and Norris missed a three to give the Tritons a chance with 17 seconds remaining. Ryan drove in the middle and kicked to sophomore guard Tyler McGrath, who nailed a three-pointer to tie the score at 66 and send the game into a second overtime.

“The shot was great,” head coach Chris Carlson said. “That was great execution. Those two guys, having played together for a bit, know how to work off each other. And Tyler [McGrath] made a great adjustment and made the shot.”

McGrath had only six points on the night off the bench, but his shot was perhaps the biggest of the night for the Tritons.

“I was due, I was overdue,” McGrath said. “I had a rough shooting night. The balls just wouldn’t fall, which happens. But my coaches kept telling me to keep shooting, and Casey [Ryan] trusted me at the end, and it was a big shot for us.”

The Tritons clamped down defensively in the second overtime and allowed the Golden Eagles only two field goals. With the Tritons up 75-73 with 12 seconds remaining, Ryan missed a pair of free throws to give Cal State L.A. one last chance. Norris took the rebound and attempted to go coast-to-coast to tie the game, but the Tritons forced him into another tough shot on the baseline and UCSD held on for the victory.

“I thought it showed tremendous growth on the part of our team to stay mentally tough throughout,” Carlson said. “We’ve been through these kinds of games on the road, and just weren’t able to pull it out.”

Carlson said a loud UCSD crowd helped the team in a close game.

“It’s so important to have that support,” Carlson said. “It really gives you that little burst of energy. I don’t think we necessarily have to have that all the time, but it’s such a great thing to have a crowd.”

The Tritons out-rebounded the Golden Eagles 56-38 that night.

“First off, Cal State L.A. is a very, very good rebounding team,” Carlson said. “We know that’s something we have to hang our hat on, and it has to be there for us. So for us to be plus-18 on the rebound count against this team is a considerable thing.”

Against Cal State Dominguez Hills on Saturday night, the Tritons made it tough for the nation’s seventh-ranked team, but ultimately fell as the Toros pulled away in the final minutes.

CSUDH’s Cal State Dominguez Hill’s Zareh Zargaryan had a game-high 14 points in a game that was marked by outstanding defenses on both sides. Brue and McGrath had 11 points apiece to lead the Tritons.

The game’s tempo was slow throughout, especially in the first half. The teams went into the break with the score 23-19, as neither side could find any rhythm on the offensive end.

The Toros got things going offensively in the second half, and led by nine points with 8:32 to play. But the Tritons came roaring back thanks to some clutch shooting by Brue and Hatch, who scored 10 points for the Tritons over a four-minute stretch to bring the score to 49-48.

The Toros responded with a quick 5-0 run, and hit their free throws in the final minute to seal the win.

“They were taking a lot of the shots we wanted them to take, and they just made them,” Carlson said. “You’ve got to hand it to them for doing that.”

The Tritons will stay at home this week, with games on Thursday and Saturday against Cal State San Bernardino and Cal Poly Pomona.

Readers can contact Liam Rose at [email protected].

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