LOS ANGELES - Closing out the longest road trip of its season, the UC San Diego men's basketball team emerged from Eagles Nest with a 50-34 victory over Cal State L.A. on Saturday.
"We had a fantastic collective effort this evening," said Tritons head coach Chris Carlson. "Our group did a marvelous job in the zone and making adjustments all night."
The Tritons improve to 8-9 overall and 7-7 against California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) opponents. With the win, the Tritons have won three straight conference games for the first time since the 2008-09 season when UCSD hosted and defeated Cal State San Bernardino, San Francisco State and Cal State Monterey Bay on Feb. 14, 20 and 21, respectively.
UCSD returns to RIMAC Arena on Friday to host Humboldt State (9-9, 4-9 CCAA) in a Friday game set to commence at 7:30 p.m.
Freshman guard/forward Hunter Walker scored a career-high 14 points and had one rebound, one assist, one block and one steal. Senior guard Tyler McGrath contributed 12 points, three rebounds, one assist and a steal.
CSULA was guided by junior forward Julian Camper, who scored 11 points and had eight rebounds, and junior forward Solomon Singer, who had eight points, a game-high 10 rebounds, one assist and a steal.
In spite of a 16-point first half, in which the Tritons only went 7-for-26 (26.9%) from the field, UCSD improved significantly in the second half with an 11-for-23 (47.8%) effort from the paint to more than double their point total to finish with 34 in the closing 20 minutes. CSULA made a dismal 10 of 51 (19.6%) from the field for the game. In addition, UCSD's bench outscored the Golden Eagles' non-starters, 18-5, for the game.
The Tritons began the second half with a 16-10 lead and shot excellently in the closing half's first five minutes, hitting all five of their shot attempts from the field.
After acquiring a 14-point, 28-14 lead, however, the Golden Eagles put together a 7-0 run to trim their deficit in half. Singer, who scored five of the seven points in this stretch, made a layup with 14:40 left to cap the run and make the score, 28-21.
UCSD's lead never dropped below seven and the Tritons last led by that few, 31-24, when Singer sank a free throw at the 10:29 mark. With 8:05 left in regulation and a score of 36-27, Walker converted two free-throw attempts to return the Tritons' lead to double digits for the final time in the contest, 38-27.
Golden Eagles junior forward James Tillman made a pair of free throws to shrink the deficit to 10 points, 44-34, to keep the CSULA just a few possessions away from evening the score with the Tritons with 4:29 to spare in the game. Little did the Golden Eagles know, Tillman's free throws would be their final points of the contest.
Beginning with freshman forward/guard Drew Dyer's successful free-throw line trip at the 2:35 reading, giving UCSD a 46-34 advantage, the Tritons finished the Golden Eagles off with a 6-0 run to end the game. McGrath's pair of free throws with 1:36 to go in the game brought the Tritons to a 16-point, 50-34 lead, their largest one of the game.
Though both teams found their stride to a degree in the second half, the opening half was highlighted by its infrequent changes in score.
Facing a 6-2 deficit with 10:51 to go in the first half, junior guard James McCann ignited the spark the Tritons needed with a jumper to signify the start of a 7-0 run. This was followed by senior forward Justin Brue's game-tying jumper at the 9:08 mark, 6-6, which preceded Walker's go-ahead trey with 7:31 prior to the half to push UCSD to a 9-6 lead.
Once the Tritons gained control of the lead, they never lost grasp of it.
Walker then drilled another three-pointer to introduce a second 7-0 run, which the Tritons rode into the half. A jumper and layup both by senior forward/center Colin Porter completed the run for UCSD. Porter's layup occurred with 3:19 remaining in the first frame and put the Tritons twice as many points ahead of the Golden Eagles, 16-8.
The second of Tillman's two free throws at the 2:17 mark of the opening half reduced the Tritons lead from eight to six points, 16-10, and was the last point of the half.
With the recent success the Tritons have had, Carlson believes his team must maintain its drive in order to earn more wins.
"We have to keep pushing, keep preparing," Carlson said. "We still have a lot of work ahead of us."
The Golden Eagles (10-8, 7-7 CCAA) will travel on the road to play Cal State Monterey Bay (8-13, 4-10 CCAA) in a game scheduled on Friday for a 7:30 p.m. tip-off.
-- UCSDtritons.com --