POMONA, Calif. - The University of California San Diego men's basketball team used a late surge to secure a 66-49 victory against Chico State Friday in a California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) Tournament semifinal at Cal Poly Pomona's Kellogg Arena.
With the upset win, third-seeded UC San Diego improved to 20-10, earning its third-consecutive season with at least 20 wins. Chico State, the tourney's second seed, fell to 20-8. The Tritons advance to the league tournament championship game against top-seeded and 19th-ranked Cal Poly Pomona (23-5) on Saturday, March 3, at 5:05 p.m. at Kellogg Arena. It is UCSD's third-straight trip to the conference tourney final.
Leading by just three points, 47-44, with 7:35 left on the clock in the second half, the Tritons out-scored the Wildcats 19-5 the rest of the way to ice the victory. The final 17-point margin was UCSD's largest of the game.
Junior guard/forward Christian Oshita led all players with 20 points. The Triton has now scored 10 or more points in 28 of 30 games and 20-plus points in nine contests. Oshita was 5-for-12 shooting with a pair of 3-pointers. He was a perfect 8-for-8 from the free throw line and hauled in a game co-high nine rebounds.
Redshirt freshman guard Mikey Howell totaled 11 points and three assists for UCSD, while sophomore forward Scott Everman had nine points. Junior guard Christian Bayne, who came into the game as the Tritons' leading scorer (16.3 points/game), finished with eight points as he was limited to 20 minutes of floor time due to foul trouble. Senior guard Anthony Ballestero also had eight points.
As a team, UC San Diego made all 15 of its free throw attempts. The Tritons shot 43.1 percent (22-51) overall and 29.2 percent (7-24) from behind the 3-point line. They surrendered 18 points on 12 turnovers.
UCSD scored the first seven points of the game, the last three coming on a trey by Oshita. The Tritons stayed ahead until Isaiah Ellis hit a three to knot it at 15-15. A Howell layup put UC San Diego back in front, but Corey Silverstrom netted a three-pointer to give the Wildcats their first and only lead, 18-17, with 4:40 remaining in the half. Oshita followed his own miss with a put-back to spark a 7-0 run by the Tritons that had them leading by six, 24-18, at the 1:52 mark. They held a lead for the rest of the game.
UCSD turned the ball over seven times in the opening half, leading to 12 points for the Wildcats.
In the second half, Ballestero drilled a three at 15:26 to give the Tritons their first double-digit lead, 38-28. Chico State scored five unanswered points to get back within five, but an Oshita three and a turn-around jumper in the paint by Bayne pushed UCSD's lead back to 10, 43-33, at 12:26. Again, the Wildcats rallied, mounting an 11-4 run during which Ellis scored five points. Jalen McFerran's jumper was the shot that got Chico back within a single possession before UC San Diego exploded for its game-clinching run.
Over the final 7:35, Oshita totaled eight points.
UCSD was 12-for-12 from the charity stripe in the second half.
Ellis was Chico State's top scorer with 19 points. Silverstrom finished with 11 points and Justin Briggs had nine rebounds.
The Wildcats struggled offensively, making just 29.6 percent (16-54) of their shots overall and 22.7 percent (5-22) from deep. They hit only 12 of their 21 free throw attempts, 57.1 percent.
It was the third meeting between UC San Diego and Chico State this season, with the Tritons winning two of them. The two teams split the season series in each of the previous five years.
Cal Poly Pomona earned its spot in Saturday's final after defeating fifth-seeded San Francisco State, 67-60, in overtime in Friday's first semi. William Christmas had a team-high 13 points for CPP, which out-scored the Gators 9-2 in the extra period.
UCSD and CPP have met just once this season with the Broncos defeating the Tritons, 80-69, on Feb. 9 in La Jolla.
UC San Diego is in search of its third CCAA Tournament crown after winning the title in 2008 and 2017. The league tourney champion earns an automatic bid into the NCAA Regionals.