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The UCSD Guardian

The Student News Site of University of California - San Diego

The UCSD Guardian

The Student News Site of University of California - San Diego

The UCSD Guardian

Tritons prevail over Denver in season opener

Tritons+prevail+over+Denver+in+season+opener
Image by Justin Lu for The UCSD Guardian

In their first game of the season, UC San Diego men’s basketball (2–0, 0–0 Big West) beat the University of Denver (1–1, 0–0 Summit) in a high-scoring 95-87 thriller at LionTree Arena. Despite a close first half, the offense would come alive in the second half to lift the Tritons to a comfortable win. 

 

Denver won the tip, and a minute later, guard Bryce Pope opened up the scoring for the Tritons with a wide-open three-pointer. Pope would go on a hot streak, with 8 points in the opening minutes as the Tritons took an early 5-point lead. However, Denver would come storming back, as Denver’s center dominated the paint, taking a late first half lead with a ferocious dunk. Denver would continue attacking the paint, with the Pioneers’ guard converting an impressive reverse layup to bring Denver a 5-point lead, their largest lead of the night. Their run would be short-lived, however, as the Tritons rallied to score in their final six possessions of the quarter, with forward J’Raan Brooks scoring 7 points in that stretch. Pope would close the half with a layup to bring the Tritons within 1.

 

The Tritons’ run would continue after halftime, scoring 10 unanswered points to begin the second half, culminating with a Pope steal followed by a pull-up three to widen the Tritons’ lead to 9. A minute later, forward Francis Nwaokorie scored a ferocious dunk, the Tritons’ first dunk of the night. The dunking barrage continued, as Brooks and guard Hayden Gray would both touch rim in the next few minutes. The Tritons were also dominating the paint on the other side of the floor, with 5 blocks in the first few minutes of the second half. Following a timeout, Denver finally began to figure things out, going on a small run to bring the Triton lead back down to 4. However, another Triton run would extend the lead to 12, a lead the Tritons did not relinquish, taking a 95-87 win.

 

Pope led the Tritons in scoring with 28 points, including 15 from beyond the arc. Meanwhile, Nwaokorie scored 21 and forward Aniwaniwa Tait-Jones nearly managed a triple-double (14 points, 10 rebounds, 9 assists). The rest of the Tritons starters all scored double digit points. 

 

After the game, Pope spoke to The UCSD Guardian about how he felt about the win.

 

“First and foremost, I’m really happy that we got the win,” Pope said. “It’s always good to start the season on the right foot and it felt really good. We had a lot of guys with good efforts tonight, it was a lot of fun.”

 

Talking about the key to success for this Triton team entering their 4th Big West campaign, Pope explained, “I think it’s about everyone sharing the ball with one another, and also, coming out strong to start the game, and not getting down early.”

 

Triton head coach Eric Olen also took the time to speak to The Guardian post-game. When asked how he felt about starting 1-0, he joked, “Better than the alternative.”

 

“It’s great to get off to a good start,” Olen continued. “Happy for our guys, they put a lot of work in the offseason this summer, and it’s good to have that show up on the first night. Hopefully that builds some confidence going forward, but really encouraging start.”

 

While Olen was happy with the start, he admitted that the team needed to do better on defense and give up fewer rebounds going forward.

 

“I thought we played really well offensively, but if we have to score 95 to win every time, it’s gonna be difficult,” he said. “Gotta do a better job defensively, gotta rebound the ball better, 24 offensive rebounds is not sustainable for us, so certainly some things to clean up.”

 

The Tritons followed Monday’s win with a 69-63 victory over crosstown rivals University of San Diego on Saturday. They will look to extend their win streak to three against University of La Verne on Monday night and end the week at home against Navy on Military Appreciation Night.

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About the Contributor
Justin Lu
Justin Lu, Photographer
Hailing from Toronto, Canada, Justin finds time to compile KR&B playlists and enjoy good food whenever he's not covering events. Other interests include mechanical keyboards, macOS keyboard shortcuts, software development projects, and esports.
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