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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

Strong second half proves the difference as Tritons down Beach

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Photo by Amanda Parmele/ UCSD Guardian

In their first home game of the new quarter, UC San Diego (10–6, 4–0 Big West) beat Long Beach State (11–6, 3–2 Big West) 88–74, electrified by a strong performance from senior guard Bryce Pope. Following a close first half, the Tritons came out hot in the second half to secure the double-digit victory.

 

UCSD came out of the gates firing, taking an early five-point lead. Junior forward Aniwaniwa Tait-Jones led the way early on, scoring six points in the opening few minutes. However, a Triton cold streak would allow Long Beach to take a five-point lead. 

 

A pair of threes from junior forward Tyler McGhie gave the Tritons the lead once again, but they were unable to hold the advantage. Both teams traded the lead back and forth before another Triton cold streak allowed the Beach to take a 34–40 lead. However, Pope then scored an and-1 three, sparking an 8–0 run and handing the lead back to the Tritons.

 

Long Beach would score a pair of free throws late to bring the game to a 42–42 tie at the half. Tait-Jones led the game in scoring in the first half, with 13 points on perfect 6–6 shooting, while also leading the Tritons in assists.

 

UCSD dominated early in the second half and took a quick ten-point lead. Pope, in particular, was on fire as he scored 11 points in the first few minutes of the half, including 3 threes. The Beach struggled to find the net, and the Tritons slowly grew their lead to a comfortable 21 points. 

 

Long Beach finally found their footing after junior guard Hayden Gray and senior center Emmanuel Tshimanga fouled out late in the second half, narrowing the lead down to 12, but it was too little, too late. The Tritons ultimately held on to earn their fourth consecutive Big West victory, 88–74. Bryce Pope finished the game with 26 points, including five threes, and led the Tritons in scoring.

 

After the game, junior forward Francis Nwaokorie, who finished the game with 14 points and a team-high seven rebounds, spoke to The UCSD Guardian about what he thought was the key to victory for the Tritons Thursday night.

 

“For us, it was just about protecting the paint and being physical, especially on the glass, and really limiting them in transition, and those were really the keys for us to get this win tonight, and we were able to do that,” Nwaokorie said.

 

Speaking about the impact of the student section, which was full for the third time this season, Nwaokorie said, “It really gives us confidence, especially in the Big West, if we want to win, we have to really win at home. If we [are] able to defend the home court, we could really go a long way, and having those fans there coming to every game, being loud, really just feeds our energy and helps us play hard.”

 

UCSD Head Coach Eric Olen also took the time to speak to The Guardian post-game and praised the offensive performance of his players.

 

“When guys make shots, everything gets easier,” he said. “We got a lot of different guys who can make you pay when we move the basketball and share it. Aniwaniwa Tait-Jones was awesome tonight, Bryce Pope is probably playing the best basketball of his life, J’Raan Brooks is all over the place, it’s a group effort every time out. 19 assists, 30 baskets are great numbers, great performance from us.”

 

When asked why he thought the team was overperforming pre-season projections, Olen said, “We got good players who play for each other, play the right way, and we got competitive guys who expect to have success.”

 

Thursday marked the fourth straight win for the Tritons, as they remained perfect in conference play. They continued their winning streak with an 86–61 win against Cal Poly San Luis Obispo on Saturday. The Tritons will take on the Anteaters in Irvine on Thursday, before returning home to play University of Hawai’i on Saturday.

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Amanda Parmele, Photographer
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