LA JOLLA, Calif. -
The UC San Diego men's basketball team gave No. 7 Cal State Dominguez Hills all it could handle on Saturday night but ultimately dropped a 57-49 decision in a tightly contested California Collegiate Athletic Association affair at RIMAC Arena.
The Tritons cut a nine-point deficit down to just one with less than three minutes to play, but the Toros closed the game on a 9-2 run to pick up their 13th victory in 14 games this season.
Zareh Zargaryan scored a game-high 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting to lead Cal State Dominguez Hills, while Van Girard II chipped in with 11 points off the bench. The Toros shot 45% from the field and held a 33-25 rebounding advantage en route to their sixth consecutive victory.
Already off to the best start in program history, CSUDH improved to 13-1 on the season, while upping its conference mark to 9-1. The Toros are currently tied with Humboldt State for the top spot in the CCAA standings through 10 games. Justin Brue
and Tyler McGrath
scored 11 points apiece to lead the Tritons, who fall to 9-7 overall and 4-6 in the CCAA. UCSD's offense struggled to find it's footing against the league's top-ranked defense, shooting just 37% from the field.
"We're very disappointed with how things turned out tonight, but we performed pretty much at an even level with the No. 7 team in the country and we'll take a lot of positives away from that," head coach Chris Carlson
said. "We just need to dust ourselves off a little bit and continue to grow and get better. You have to be able to persevere in this league and we've got two tough games coming up next week."
Two nights after knocking off third place Cal State L.A. in double overtime, the Tritons hung tough with the league-leading Toros all evening on Saturday. UCSD trailed 27-21 following a jumper by Zargaryan two and a half minutes into the second half, but the Tritons rallied to tie the score at 28 on a three by McGrath.
A triple from James McCann made it 36-34 with 11:09 remaining, but Amir Aguilar connected on a jumper and Girard followed with five straight points to put to give the visitors their biggest lead at 43-34 with 8:32 left to play.
McGrath hit another three and Brue knocked down three straight baskets to spark the UCSD comeback, as the Tritons pulled within 47-43 win less than five minutes remaining. Christian Hatch hit two free throws just over a minute later and then drained a jumper from the free throw line, cutting the Triton deficit to one at 48-47 and forcing a Dominguez timeout with 2:49 on the clock.
The Toros would immediately respond as Robert Willhite hit a three out of the timeout and Aguilar scored in the paint to put CSUDH on top by six with 1:30 left. Casey Ryan sank two at the line on the Tritons' next possession, but McGrath's three that would have cut it to one missed the mark with just 11 seconds remaining.
Marcquintice Davis sank four free throws to ice the victory for the Toros.
McCann finished with 10 points for UCSD, shooting 4-of-8 from the field. Brue was 5-of-10 and added seven boards to go with his 11 points and McGrath finished 3-of-9, with all three of his makes coming from behind the arc.
The Toros did an excellent job of limiting the Tritons' top two scorers in the game, as Hatch finished with just six points and Ryan finished with eight. Hatch had posted four consecutive double-doubles entering the game, while Ryan was coming off a 12-point, 20-rebound performance in Thursday's win over the Golden Eagles.
UCSD returns to the court on Thursday when Cal State San Bernardino pays a visit to RIMAC Arena. After taking on the Coyotes, the Tritons will square off with defending national champion Cal Poly Pomona on Saturday. Both contests are scheduled for 7:30 p.m.