LA JOLLA, Calif. - James McCann
converted a three-point play with eight seconds remaining to send the UC San Diego men's basketball team to a 71-67 triumph over visiting Cal State Monterey Bay on Saturday evening at RIMAC Arena.
UCSD held off a late rally from the visitors to snap a four-game losing streak and earn its first victory since December 30. McCann and Justin Brue scored 19 points apiece for the Tritons, who shot 42% from the field and dropped 7-of-16 from the three-point line.
UCSD, which bounced back from a heartbreaking 80-79 overtime defeat to Cal State East Bay on Friday, improves to 6-9 on the season and 2-8 in California Collegiate Athletic Association play with the win. With six of their next eight games at home, the Tritons will look to string a couple of wins together over the next few weeks to remain in the hunt for a CCAA playoff berth.
Cal State Monterey Bay falls to 2-11 on the year and 1-8 in the CCAA with the loss. The Otters have lost eight in a row and currently sit in last place in the conference standings.
"We showed a lot of mental toughness tonight," head coach Chris Carlson said of his team's performance. "There were a couple of moments where we could have caved in and we didn't do that. We executed down the stretch and had some good fortune too. Sometimes you've got to make your own breaks and we haven't done that in the last few weeks."
Playing without their leading scorer and rebounder in Christian Hatch, the Tritons needed someone to step up and both McCann and Brue answered the bell. McCann followed a career-high 22-point effort in Friday's loss to the Pioneers with another outstanding performance on Saturday, hitting 5-of-7 shots from the floor, including 4-of-5 from downtown. He also dished out three assists.
Brue had a strong shooting performance as well, connecting on six of his eight shots from the floor and 7-of-9 at the free throw line to reach double figures for the third straight game. He also snared a game-high six boards. MacKenzie McCullough added nine points and three assists off the bench.
The Tritons finished 18-of-43 from the field, but hit just 7-of-20 in the second half after building a 12-point lead early in the period.
Geoff McIntosh scored 19 points to lead three players in double figures for the Otters, who shot 52% (22-42). Brandon Ward finished with 16 points, while Derrick Anderson chipped in with 10.
The Tritons led 44-32 less than a minute into the second half, but the Otters came storming back to within one at 49-48 following a bucket by James Albert with 13 minutes remaining. Brue answered with a jumper to stop the bleeding for UCSD and his three -point play gave the Tritons a 55-50 cushion two and a half minutes later.
UCSD's lead hovered between three and six points until Jaron Devine and Troy Watkins scored back-to-back hoops to bring CSUMB to within two, 60-58, with 6:02 left. Brue hit a free throw and McCann sank his fourth triple of the night to push the Triton advantage back to six, but the Otters scored eight of the next 10 points to tie the game at 66 with 1:42 remaining.
After the Tritons came up empty on their next possession, UCSD caught a break when Monterey Bay's Jalen Headspeth stepped on the sideline, giving the ball back to the Tritons with 39 seconds left and setting the stage for McCann's heroics.
With roughly 15 seconds left, McCann dribbled to his left, went back right and lost the ball in the paint. The Otters couldn't come up with it cleanly though and somehow McCann was there to scoop it up and put it in. He was fouled on the play and calmly sank the free throw to give UCSD a 69-66 lead.
After watching Cal State East Bay sink the game-tying three at the end of regulation on Friday, the Tritons elected to foul on the Otter's ensuing possession and the strategy paid off as Ward made just one of his two free throws.
Tyler McGrath sank two to ice the four-point victory and send the crowd home happy.
UCSD will take on Sonoma State on Friday, January 20 at RIMAC Arena, before entertaining Humboldt State the following evening.