LA JOLLA, Calif. - Christian Hatch
scored a game-high 26 points, including back-to-back baskets that put the Tritons ahead for good late in the final period, as UC San Diego fought off visiting Cal State L.A. for a thrilling 76-73 double overtime victory on Thursday night at RIMAC Arena.
After letting an 11-point first half lead slip away and missing a chance to win the game at the end of regulation, the Tritons rallied from five points down with 1:18 left in the first OT and went on to outscore the Golden Eagles 10-7 in the second extra session to pull out the win.
"That certainly wasn't pretty, but we'll take it," head coach Chris Carlson said. "Our offense struggled at times again tonight, but we battled and we played well defensively and we were able to hang with one of the better teams in the league. I was very, very pleased with our effort out there."
UCSD improves to 9-6 overall on the season, ending a two-game skid following losses at Chico State and Cal State Stanislaus last weekend. The Tritons are now just a game below .500 in California Collegiate Athletic Association play at 4-5 heading into Saturday's matchup with league-leading Cal State Dominguez Hills.
Cal State L.A., which entered the game in third place in the league standings, falls to 10-3 overall and 6-3 in the CCAA. The loss snapped a four-game winning streak for the Golden Eagles.
Hatch led three players in double figures for the Tritons, finishing 9-of-17 from the field and 8-of-11 at the free throw line to power a UCSD offense that has struggled shooting the ball of late. The junior center also grabbed 13 rebounds for his fourth consecutive double-double and sixth overall this season.
Casey Ryan finished with a double-double as well, tallying 12 points and a career-high 20 rebounds. He also added four assists and three steals. Justin Brue had 17 points, five boards and four assists.
David Norris scored 24 points and grabbed eight rebounds for the Golden Eagles, who shot 40% for the game and 54% in the second period. Franklin Session finished with 20 points and nine rebounds, while Carl Hoffman added 12 off the bench and Chris Robinson chipped in with 10.
The Tritons were in control throughout the first half and led by as many as 11 at 35-24 following a jumper by Brue with 1:20 left in the period.
The Golden Eagles would come storming back in the second half, as Norris and Hoffman combined to score 18 straight points during one stretch for CSULA. Norris hit a jumper and then sank back-to-back threes to put the visitors on top, 51-48, with 7:39 remaining.
Cal State L.A. led 55-52 until Hatch's three-point play tied the score with 3:44 left. Hatch would come up with another big bucket to tie the game at 59 with 1:01 remaining in regulation, but his jumper that would have won it with five seconds left rimmed out and the game went into overtime.
The Golden Eagles looked to be pulling away halfway through the first OT as Session scored inside and then hit three straight free throws to put CSULA in front, 66-61. Brue answered for the Tritons though, hitting a jumper on the next possession to cut the deficit to just three. Norris missed a three for the Golden Eagles with 17 seconds left and Tyler McGrath followed with the biggest shot of the game - a long three from straight away with a hand in his face - with six seconds on the clock to tie the score at 66 and send it to a second overtime.
Clearly energized by McGrath's shot, UCSD took over in the final period with Hatch scoring on back-to-back possessions to give the Tritons a 71-68 lead. Session hit two free throws to cut the lead to just one at 72-71 with 1:14 to play, but Hatch got fouled the next time down and sank both and James McCann added two to wrap it up.
UCSD won despite shooting just 39% from the field, but the Tritons held a commanding 56-38 rebounding advantage and edged the Golden Eagles 14-8 in second chance points.
"To out-rebound that team like we did is pretty impressive," Carlson continued. "That was a huge key for us."
The Tritons will look to ride the momentum into Saturday's game against the first place Toros, who defeated Cal State East Bay 70-52 on Thursday. Tip-off is slated for 7:30 p.m. at RIMAC Arena.