Inconsistent Play Forces Weekend Split

Poor first half dooms UCSD in loss, but Tritons respond with strong victory to earn split.

After having its long-awaited home opener spoiled by Cal Poly Pomona last week, the UCSD men’s basketball team continued its up-and-down season, splitting the homestand this past weekend. The Tritons took a 53–48 loss to reigning California Collegiate Athletic Association champions Cal State Stanislaus on Friday before defeating league rival Chico State 69–53 the following night.

The Tritons struggled to find an offensive groove against Cal State Stanislaus (4–2 in the CCAA, 7–4 overall). UCSD had its worst first-half performance of the season, shooting a dismal 18 percent from the field and missing all of its attempts from three-point territory. Only four Tritons were able to put points on the scoreboard. 

However, Cal State Stanislaus could not take full advantage of UCSD’s poor play as it put up a subpar offensive performance as well. The Warriors shot 32 percent from the field, enough to give them a 20–14 advantage going into halftime. Both teams committed nine turnovers in the first half.

“There’s going to be nights where we don’t shoot great,” UCSD head coach Eric Olen said to the UCSD Athletics Department. “We’re a young team, and an important thing to keep in mind going forward is to learn how to win games and be successful when we are not the absolute best [at] shooting and scoring the basketball.” 

Offensively, the second half was a different story, as both teams were able to regroup and improve from their shooting woes. Both teams shot comparable percentages, with UCSD converting on 46.2 percent of the attempts and Cal State Stanislaus hitting 47.8 percent of their attempts.

UCSD had only one player who scored in double digits, junior guard Hunter Walker, who scored a team-high 21 points, 17 of which came in the second half. He also was able to corral five rebounds in the contest. Junior forward Zach McMillan had a team-high seven rebounds with four points.       

The Tritons were able to crawl back into the game with just a few minutes remaining. However, Walker missed the potential one free throw that would have tied the game at 46 with two minutes remaining. The Warriors sealed the victory in the remaining moments of the game. 

“I think we let a great opportunity get through our hands tonight,” Olen said. “Anytime we hold anyone to 53 points, I would feel good about our chances. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to score the way we typically do tonight.”

Despite the discouraging offensive performance against Cal State Stanislaus, the Tritons were able to break their three-game losing streak the following night with a convincing victory over league rival Chico State (4–2 in the CCAA, 7–4 overall). 

UCSD did a great job converting turnovers into points, scoring 19 off of 19 Wildcat turnovers.

Despite it being a close game in the first, the Tritons ended the final three minutes of the half on a 7–0 run to give them a slight 31–24 advantage going into intermission. UCSD did not let off the pedal in the second half, eventually building the lead to 19 points. 

After a quiet night against Cal State Stanislaus, junior forward Drew Dyer erupted for 29 points and seven rebounds. He shot an efficient 11–17 from the field with four coming from beyond the arc. Dyer’s 29 was a season high and was just one shy from his career high.

“I was frustrated the way I played last night,” Dyer said. “I didn’t think I was kind of aggressive. My mindset tonight was to come out and play hard. The idea was to play downhill, play vocal and make shots if the opportunity presented itself.”

Walker continued to impress in his breakout year, scoring 14 points while also adding four rebounds, four assists and two steals. 

The Tritons are now 3–3 in CCAA play and 5–5 overall. Despite the 0.500 record, the Tritons have played a tough schedule while competing against and defeating strong teams in Cal Poly Pomona and Chico State. Olen expressed confidence in his team’s ability to win games despite the rocky start to the season.

“I think that when we come ready to play and we execute and we play our brand of basketball, we’re capable of winning any game on our schedule. We’re confident on our ability to play on a high level,” he said.

The Tritons’ resilience will be tested yet again when they play their final two games of their five-game homestand against CCAA leader Sonoma State (5–1) on Friday and San Francisco State University (4–2) on Saturday.

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