Tritons, McGhie in full control against CSUN

Tritons, McGhie in full control against CSUN
Photo by Hana Tobias/ UCSD Guardian

On a stormy Thursday night in Liontree Arena, UC San Diego (15–7, 9–1 Big West) coasted to victory against Cal State Northridge (13–9, 4–6 Big West) in an 83–62 win. Junior guard Tyler McGhie led the way with 24 points off the bench.

 

The Tritons entered this game in dominant form, having lost only one of their nine conference games before Thursday’s matchup. Before the game, UCSD was ranked 25th in the Mid-Major Top 25 Poll, which ranks the top teams from those outside of major conferences and is voted on by Division I coaches. This marked the first time in program history that UCSD has been ranked in a national poll.

 

CSUN shot well early, but four early Matador turnovers allowed the Tritons to take a 5-point lead. However, CSUN was able to narrow the gap down, and the score sat at 20–18 with 9:46 remaining in the half. It would be another 8 minutes before they would score another point. During this stretch of mediocrity, the Matadors missed 13 straight field goals. UCSD would go on a 10–0 run during CSUN’s slump, with McGhie scoring 7 in that stretch, as the Tritons took an 11-point lead. Then, the Tritons also went silent. In what was the oddest stretch of basketball I’ve ever seen, both teams missed a collective 14 straight field goals for over 4 minutes, with a singular point in that stretch coming from a free throw by redshirt senior Bryce Pope. Simply put, it was ugly to watch. The scoring finally resumed with around 2 minutes left in the half, McGhie scored a step-back 3-pointer as the buzzer sounded, and UCSD entered halftime with a 37–23 lead.

 

McGhie was electric in the first half, with 13 points off the bench. However, the other members of the Triton backcourt — Pope and junior guard Hayden Gray — shot a combined 1 for 13 and failed to convert a single 3. But the highlight of the first half was the Triton defense. Despite a rocky start, UCSD held CSUN to only 23 points in the half on 33% shooting.

 

CSUN finally found their shooting touch early in the second half. Unfortunately for them, Pope did as well. While the Matadors began converting, the Triton offense went cold. But Pope didn’t get the memo; while the rest of the team missed their first 5 shot attempts, Pope scored the Tritons’ first 9 points of the half. Then McGhie joined Pope in his scoring streak, making 3 in a row from behind the arc. In an incredible 2-man shooting performance, Pope and McGhie eventually combined for 32 of the 46 Triton points in the second half, collectively shooting 67% from beyond the arc as their lead ballooned to 26. UCSD scored little for the rest of the game, but their lead was insurmountable, and they took an 83–62 win.

 

Despite his poor performance in the first half, Pope was remarkable in the second half, and he finished with 22 points. But it was McGhie who personally dug the Matadors’ grave, pouring on more and more dirt with each basket. Rest in peace CSUN, killed by the man they call Ty. He finished with a game-high 24 points in only 22 minutes off the bench.

 

After the game, McGhie spoke with The UCSD Guardian about his performance and what he thought was the key to his success that night.

 

“Definitely my teammates setting me up,” he said. “I feel like all I had to do is go out there and shoot the ball, which I’m decent at.”

 

I also asked about his thoughts on his buzzer-beater at the end of the first half.

 

“It was on the rim for a while,” McGhie said. “I was happy it went in. I feel like I struggled a little bit from three in the first half, so I feel like that propelled me in the second half.”

 

UCSD head coach Eric Olen also spoke with The Guardian post-game. He praised his team’s defensive performance in the latter portion of the first half.

 

“I thought we just did a good job of containing penetration,” he said. “[CSUN] are really aggressive and physical in their drives. And I thought that we did a nice job of holding up and forcing difficult shots and limiting them on the offensive glass for the most part, in particular during that stretch, and that was a big stretch in terms of us creating little separation.”

 

When asked about Pope’s turnaround after halftime, Olen explained, “We don’t worry about makes and misses for guys as long as we’re taking the right shots. We worry about our process, we worry about shot selection, we worry about taking care of the ball. So in the first half, we felt like we left a lot of points on the board just with like, some of the shots we’re getting they didn’t fall but we felt pretty good that if Bryce and Ty are gonna get a bunch more 3’s, and we’re gonna get some of the looks that we got in the second half that we would we would score better. And, fortunately for us, that’s how it went.”

 

Thursday’s win marked four straight victories for the Tritons. However, on Saturday, they lost on the road against California State University, Long Beach, bringing their conference record to 9–2. They will take on Hawaii on Thursday in Oahu, before returning home the following Thursday to face UC Santa Barbara.

 

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About the Contributor
Hana Tobias, Photographer
Hana is a fourth year Cognitive Science major.
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