Explosive Offense Not Enough for UCSD Men’s Basketball


Advaith Modali

On Wednesday, UC San Diego’s men’s basketball team (8–18, 3–11 Big West) hosted the California State University, Fullerton Titans (15–12, 9–6 Big West) at the LionTree Arena. The Tritons entered the game eager to get back on track after a string of losses and boost their Big West standing, while the Titans sought to continue their win streak. 

The first half opened with a fast start for the Tritons, having made 6 of their first 8 field goal attempts, which included a field goal percentage of 60% from the 3-point area. Sophomore forward Francis Nwaokorie found himself with multiple paint opportunities at the beginning of this half, scoring 6 immediate paint points while also playing stellar defense. The Tritons immediately established the flow of this game with a flawless offense, gaining a 17–4 lead in just five minutes and taking their opponents by surprise. 

For the remainder of the first half, the Titans stepped up their defense, forcing the Tritons to hold the ball for longer possessions; of the twelve times they held the ball, they only converted on five. CSUF went on a commanding 16–3 run in just seven minutes to put the team a point shy of tying the game. After taking a timeout, the Tritons returned to the court to establish a rhythm on offense, getting key paint looks from Nwaokorie, who finished the game with 19 points along with 7 rebounds; redshirt junior guard Bryce Pope also finished with 18 points and 7 rebounds. To finish off the half, the Tritons went on an excellent scoring run that started with a fastbreak dunk from freshman guard Roddie Anderson III. Anderson finished the game with 10 points, adding 6 rebounds and 6 assists to the team’s performance. Despite CSUF’s run, the Tritons were able to enter the halftime break ahead 40–35. 

Kicking off the second half, the Tritons found themselves in early foul trouble, with Nwakorie receiving 2 immediate fouls in the paint. Turnovers became a major problem in the offense, as the Titans took a 48–47 lead. However, Nwakorie regained control of the paint, grabbing multiple rebounds that set the stage for back-to-back 3-pointers from junior guard Jace Roquemore. This helped the Tritons go on an 8–0 run, giving UCSD a 7-point advantage. In the subsequent minutes, the game remained close until the Titans started to attack from the paint and score multiple and-one baskets, increasingly forcing pressure on the Tritons’ defense. 

CSUF took the lead with a clutch 3-pointer, which resulted in the Tritons tying the game with another 3 from Roquemore. For the rest of the game, the Tritons gave up multiple fouls and enabled the Titans to take the lead by making four free throws, the most crucial of which came in the last 30 seconds that sent senior guard Tory San Antonio to the line following a 3-point attempt. The Tritons were unable to tie the game off with a final 3-point attempt from redshirt junior Jake Kosakowski, resulting in a CSUF 76–73 win.

Despite the loss, the Tritons were fortunate to have some bright offensive performances, including Pope, who finished with 18 points and 7 rebounds. Anderson finished the game with 10 points, adding 6 rebounds and 6 assists to the team’s performance. Though the team struggled defensively at times, there were spurts in which the offense seemed elite; the Tritons will look to continue this offense in the remainder of the conference schedule. 

In his interview with UCSD Athletics, Coach Eric Olen pointed out that the team needed to maintain a stronger presence on the defensive end of the court, as they were able to establish a good offensive rhythm throughout the game. The Tritons hope to get back on track in the Big West on Monday, Feb. 20 in their matchup against UC Davis.

Image Courtesy of Keita Kobayashi