UCR wins conference opener in overtime

Cameron Yong/HIGHLANDER
Cameron Yong/HIGHLANDER

Jan. 8, 2015
Highlanders 84 – Titans 78

After what seemed like a comfortable victory with an 18-point lead in the first half, the men’s basketball team had to battle a pesky Titans team in overtime for an 84-78 victory.

With a crowd of over 700 people on hand at the Student Recreation Center Arena, Cal State Fullerton was first to get on board with a layup by Alex Harris, but after trading the lead six times within the first five minutes, the Highlanders took hold with help from a Taylor Johns three-pointer, his eighth point of the night. With 3:07 left in the first half, UCR had a game-high lead, 44-26. However, the Titans stepped up by scoring seven more points before the end of the half, and only allowing the Highlanders to score two more points for a 46-33 score at intermission. The Highlanders shot 57 percent from beyond the arc and shot 51 percent overall in the first 20 minutes of play.

The point production of the Highlanders’ offense started off slowly in the second half with only a free throw by Steven Thornton and a layup by Steven Jones to give them three points. Fullerton got a second wind and scored 12 consecutive points to make it a 49-46 game. The Titans were led mainly by Lanerryl Johnson, who scored 16 points in the period, including four three-pointers. The Highlanders managed to lead by seven points after the Titan flurry, but the newly inspired team led by three points with over a minute remaining in regulation, 67-64. Johns was fouled and split the pair of free throws, 67-65. A missed free throw by the Titans gave the Highlanders a small chance, and Nick Gruninger, who was benched for most of the period, successfully knocked down a pair at the charity stripe to send the game into overtime, 67-67.

In overtime the Highlanders took the lead with three minutes remaining and never looked back. A Johns dunk in the open court brought the packed SRC Arena to its feet as UC Riverside won the contest, 84-78.

Johns finished the game with 29 points, followed by Thornton with 17 and Gruninger with 14.

Jan. 10, 2015
Anteaters 69 – Highlanders 55

The Highlanders were unable to get the second win they were hoping for in the Big West Conference and fell to UC Irvine 69-55.

By the time the Anteaters had scored their first 10 points, the Highlanders barely got on board with a shot from Nick Gruninger. UCR tried to pick up their defense but was never able to recover from the early deficits.

At the half, the score was 29-17 and no player for UCR had double-digit points, with Jaylen Bland leading with six points.

UCI started the second half by holding down the Highlanders’ offense and scoring 10 points before UCR could score with a free throw from Johns, his first of the night, 39-18. Irvine would answer quickly with a three-pointer from Travis Souza to make it a 42-18 game and a game-high lead of 24 points.

UC Irvine continued to dominate, shooting over 70 percent from the three-point line, en route to a 69-55 win.

Johns and Bland were the only two UCR players to have double-digit points with 12 each.

The Highlanders return home for a game on Thursday, Jan. 15 against UC Davis.

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