Reaching the midway mark in conference play, UCDS Head Coach Chris Carlson altered a lineup that has largely remained the same over the course of the past eight games. Junior point guard James McCann remained at the point, but junior guard MacKenzie McCullough started over UCSD’s top-scorer, senior shooting guard Tyler McGrath. While on the block, junior forward Colin Porter stepped in for an injured Justin Brue — out with a broken nose.
“The great thing about this group is that we’ve had moments when guys are hurt or guys are sick and everyone’s just in the mode to do what needs to be done and move on,” Carlson said. “I think that’s what you saw with Drew Dyer and Colin Porter, who has stepped up in the past couple weeks and has been fantastic.”
This weekend, it seemed the change in personnel paid off for UCSD. On Saturday, facing Cal State East Bay, freshman Drew Dyer — a 6-foot-6 forward with a knack for the perimeter — became the second Triton to record 30 points or more this season. The freshman went a stellar 6-for-6 from behind the arc, on top of seven rebounds.
The Tritons led for the entire match against the Pioneers, going into the second half with a generous 15-point lead, a reassuring sign in light of last weekend’s loss against Cal State Stanislaus — where the Tritons led by 10 points at the half.
On Friday, against Cal State Monterey Bay (3–7), facing a 29–19 deficit with five minutes left in the first half, the Tritons went on an unheard-of 20–0 run. Dyer kicked off the run with a four-point play, followed by a dunk from McCullough with 4:34 remaining. Four three-pointers split between McCann and McGrath gave the Tritons a 31–39 lead to end the first period. Through the second half, the Otters never gapped the deficit, as UCSD took the 63–58 win.
“We were allowing Monterey to do what they wanted to do,” Carlson said. “And at that point we were defending and we were being more assertive, and that allowed us to get some good shots.”
UCSD stalwarts McCann and McGrath took point on the attack. McGrath went 4-for-8 from the three-point range, finishing with 20 points, while McCann recorded 16 points on top of three assists. The backcourt pairing picked up the slack for the Triton forward rotation — Porter, Dyer, McCullough and Blanchard — who were outscored by the Otters 16–36 down low. With 12 games left in the regular season, the Tritons (4–6) continue to crawl their way to .500 as they jockey for playoff position. UCSD is currently tied in the standings with Sonoma State and Cal State Stanislaus.
“It’s good to see some payoff, but I think this team has always been singly focused.” Carlson said. “We’re not gonna rest on this, and we’re going to try on build on this. We’ve got to continue to do that.”
The Tritons will tough out four more games on the road before returning to RIMAC Arena. UCSD will face San Francisco State this Friday, Jan. 25 and Sonoma State the following day.