After two blowout victories for the No. 12 UCSD men’s basketball team, the Tritons found themselves up against more formidable defenses in their most recent matches. In rematches against Humboldt State and the No. 13 Cal Poly Pomona, the Tritons fought tooth and nail for two more well-deserved victories. The Tritons are now a stellar 17–3 overall and 12–2 in the California Collegiate Athletic Association.
The Tritons came back down to earth a little in their game against Humboldt State. For the first half of Thursday night’s game, UCSD could not pull away from the Lumberjacks in a back-and-forth first half. Compared to some stellar offensive performances in recent games, the Tritons’ 11–31 shooting to start the game was disappointing for the team, resulting in only 29 points in the first half. A major contributor to their poor shooting percentage was their inability to shoot from three-point land, hitting only two out of their 11 shots from beyond the arc.
With the Triton’s usual point leaders unable to get their shot falling, freshman center Chris Hansen stepped it up to help keep UCSD in the game, scoring six points and grabbing five rebounds.
While the Lumberjacks outshot and outrebounded the Tritons in the half, they could only muster one more point than UCSD, leading 30–29 heading into the second half. Neither team held a lead for very long, with seven tied scores and 11 total lead changes.
But after some halftime adjustments, the Tritons found their groove and began playing like the team we’ve seen all season. Senior forward Drew Dyer shot a stellar 5–8 overall and 3–6 from the three-point line for 13 points to help propel the Tritons to a much more impressive 44 points in the second half. Junior guard Aleks Lipovic matched Dyer’s second half point total with two three-pointers and some help from the charity stripe.
Even with the Tritons’ increased offensive output, the game’s competitive nature continued, as the teams kept on trading the lead. This all changed at the 4:23 mark, as the Tritons fought back from a four-point deficit and finally took the lead for good with a Dyer three-pointer. The Tritons would then go on to lead by as many as eight, until finally closing out Humboldt State with a 73–69 win on the Lumberjacks’ home turf.
With the win, UCSD climbed to 16–3 overall and 11–2 in conference, while Humboldt State fell to 13–5 overall and just 7–5 in conference.
While their game against the Lumberjacks was a little rough, the Triton’s Saturday night showdown with Cal Poly Pomona was flat-out ugly. Continuing their struggle shooting from the three-point line, the Tritons could not get any form of offense going in the first half against the Bronco defense, finishing with just 18 points. Luckily for the Tritons, their defense wasn’t too shabby, holding the Broncos to just 11 first half points.
The Tritons’ offensive struggles began with their abysmal three-point shooting; in a season where they’ve averaged close to .400 from three, shooting 1–11 from beyond the arc to start the game quickly put their offense in a funk.
Defense would remain king in the second half, as the Triton defense had its way for a large chunk of the period. Even though the Triton shooting percentage didn’t fare much better, the team led by as many as 18 points. Although the Broncos would pull within three points to make the game interesting, the Tritons ultimately did just enough to come out on top 41–35.
Despite the scoring output, the team proved it can win in yet another fashion: a tough, defensive battle. The grind-it-out victory didn’t come against just any opponent, either; the Broncos are ranked No. 13, just below the Tritons in the national poll. While their offense coughed up the ball a whopping 21 times, the Triton defense forced a stellar 19 turnovers over the course of the game, stopping the Broncos from forming any sort of rhythm on offense.
“Ugly wins are still wins,” UCSD Head Coach Eric Olen told the Athletics Department. “I’m really proud of the way our guys continued to compete despite struggling offensively. This was one of our best defensive efforts this season.”
Junior guard Adam Klie was the one of the few bright spots on offense, scoring 12 points on 5–11 shooting and grabbing 10 boards for his third double-double of the season. Hansen showed up once again with 11 points and five rebounds as he and Klie combined for more than half of the Triton’s points.
After being swept by the Tritons, the Broncos are now 16–4 overall and 9–4 in conference.
Next up, the Tritons travel once again to face off against Cal State San Bernardino on Feb. 6.