LA JOLLA, Calif. - Mike Meza tied a career-high with 19 points and Christian Hatch finished with 12 to lead the UC San Diego men's basketball team to a 72-50 triumph over visiting San Francisco State on Thursday evening at RIMAC Arena.
The Tritons jumped out to a 9-0 lead and never looked back, earning their first conference win of the season in convincing fashion. UCSD looked extremely sharp in its return to the court following a nine-day layoff, shooting 51% from the field and connecting on 8-of-13 from the three-point line.
With the win, UCSD evens its season record at 5-5 and improves to 1-4 in California Collegiate Athletic Association play. The Tritons will look to carry the momentum from Thursday's performance into their matchup with undefeated and eighth-ranked Cal Poly Pomona on Friday. The Broncos knocked off Cal State San Bernardino on Thursday to take over first place in the conference standings with a 4-0 record.
San Francisco State drops to 2-8 overall and 0-4 in the CCAA with the loss.
"We played extremely well tonight and that was very encouraging considering the layoff we had," head coach Chris Carlson said. "We've been playing better basketball the last couple of weeks, we just haven't been able to pull out the victories like we needed to. Tonight was definitely a step in the right direction and we'll take it."
Meza turned in a brilliant shooting performance for the Tritons, finishing 6-of-9 from the field and 5-of-6 from the three-point line to lead all scorers in the game. The senior forward, who also tallied two rebounds and a pair of assists in 22 minutes off the bench, matched his 19-point effort in UCSD's season-opening victory over Chestnut Hill College on November 4.
Hatch also shot the ball well, connecting on five of his six attempts from the floor to finish in double figures for the eighth time in 10 games this season. Ryan Peters scored eight points and grabbed a game-high five rebounds, while Justin Brue and James McCann finished with eight points apiece.
Nefi Perdomo and Robbie Herndon scored 11 points apiece for the Gators, who shot 40% from the field as a team. Perdomo was 4-of-8 from the floor, while Herndon converted 4-of-6.
The Tritons' defense sparked the team to an early lead as UCSD held SFSU without a point for close to seven and a half minutes. UCSD scored the first nine points of the game and led 16-5 following a jumper by Brue with 8:33 remaining in the period.
Back-to-back baskets from Hatch and a pair of Brue free throws gave the Tritons a 22-7 advantage three minutes later and Meza's third three-pointer of the half extended UCSD's lead to 21 at 34-13 with 1:39 left in the half.
The Tritons shot a blistering 58% in the opening stanza, hitting 11 of their 19 shots, while the Gators connected on just 5-of-20, 25%. Meza scored 11 of his 19 points in the period to lead the way.
It was more of the same for UCSD in the second half as Meza hit back-to-back threes to put the home team on top 46-24 with 14:44 remaining.
After James Albright's bucket brought SFSU to within 20 at 48-28, McCann and Dylan Bohanan combined to score seven unanswered to give the Tritons a 55-28 advantage three and a half minutes later.
Four straight points from Ryan Wheeler gave UCSD its biggest lead of the game at 66-36 with just under seven minutes left and the Tritons cruised home from there.
UCSD finished 23-of-45 from the field, while SFSU was 18-of-45. The Tritons finished plus-nine at the free throw line and plus-nine at the charity stripe and held a 35-22 advantage on the glass.
Tip-off for UCSD's clash with Cal Poly Pomona is slated for 7:30 p.m. on Friday at RIMAC Arena.