Photo Courtesy Chad Caddy/UCSD Athletics
The No. 4 UC San Diego Tritons Men’s Basketball team defeated California State University, East Bay in the semifinals of the California Collegiate Athletic Association tournament by 86–82 on Friday, March 6.
Despite a slow start offensively, in which the Pioneers mostly shut down the Tritons’ vaunted offense, redshirt sophomore guard and newly named CCAA MVP Tyrell Roberts, first-team All CCAA redshirt senior forward Christian Oshita, and solid bench play kept the Tritons it. CSUEB’s stout defense made it difficult for UCSD to penetrate the paint but Roberts and Oshita found success shooting right over the top of the Pioneers defenders, knocking down some tough pull up jumpers to combine for 23 first-half points.
The Pioneers carried a 38–35 lead into halftime behind their sticky defense and timely 3-point shooting. CSUEB also forced the Tritons into an uncharacteristic 10 first-half turnovers and outscored top-seeded UCSD 10–2 in the paint.
Once the second half started, however, Roberts completely took over and even garnered some “MVP” chants from the student section inside RIMAC Arena. The sophomore guard was on fire, and literally could not miss, which included a stretch where he scored 11 points in just over 80 seconds.
The Pioneers refused to go away, though, as point guard Nai Carlisle and scoring wing Evan Wardlow kept the game neck and neck, combining for 45 points which set the scene for an exciting final minute.
After a CSUEB three-pointer to tie the game at 81 with just 28 seconds to go, the Tritons would have one last chance to answer and win the game in regulation.
And with just four seconds left on the clock, the league MVP did just that as he sank a jaw-dropping three-pointer, his tenth of the game, to secure the victory and a championship berth for the Tritons. The culmination of this shot and finish from Roberts made for an absolute eruption of both cheers and disbelief from fans at RIMAC Arena.
Roberts finished with a game-high 45 points, an easy career-high, and had a game that was more than worth the price of attendance alone. In the process, he shattered the previous CCAA playoff scoring record of 34 points.
For the Tritons, redshirt senior center Chris Hansen and junior guard Gabe Hadley also provided key contributions off the bench, scoring 8 and 7 points respectively while also facilitating offense from their teammates in the second half.