Highlanders earn two straight conference victories

Highlanders 64 – Tigers 57

With a 64-57 victory over the Pacific Tigers, the UC Riverside men’s basketball team improved its season record to 8-8 and its Big West record to 2-1. The Highlanders managed to secure the victory thanks to Phil Martin’s career-high tying 29 points and a Highlander defense that held off a late Pacific rally.

The game began with a slow start from both teams as the Highlanders made only two of their first nine shots, while Pacific made just one of its first six shots. With the game tied at 7-7, the Highlanders found a rhythm and went on to put up eight straight points to go up 15-7. The Tigers responded quickly as they went on a 6-0 run themselves after the Highlanders’ 8-0 run. This cut the Highlander lead to two with the score holding at 15-13. For the rest of the first half, the teams traded points as the Highlanders held a three-point lead at the half, 25-22

In the second half, the Highlanders came out strong and built a double-digit lead throughout the game. A Robert Smith layup at the 12:19 mark in the second half put the Highlanders up 45-32, which was the largest lead of the game. Pacific kept chipping away at the Highlanders’ 12-point lead as a 7-2 Pacific run reduced the Highlander lead to single digits. With the Highlanders holding just a six-point lead, Phil Martin scored his 29th point of the game on a driving layup to give his team an eight-point lead with the score at 58-50. Pacific scored the next four points thanks to two trips to the charity line to cut the lead to four, 58-54.

With 1:28 left in the game, Highlander Robert Smith made one of the two free throws to give his team a five-point cushion. In their next possession, the Tigers made it a two-point game thanks to a three-point play where Pacific’s Travis Fulton got a basket and drew a foul. The score stood at 59-57, but Kareem Nitoto got a basket to give the Highlanders a four-point lead. From there on, the Highlanders closed out the game decisively as they made their chances count to secure the final score of 64-57 and win it by seven points.

The Highlanders will now play two games at home this Thursday and Saturday against UCSB and Cal Poly where they will look to improve their season record and Big West record.

Highlanders 60 – Aggies 58

The final minutes of this game were thrilling, as the Highlanders had several moments with their backs against the wall.  However, they were able to survive the Aggies’ last minute attack to secure a 60-58 road victory. Highlander Phil Martin had a game-high 24 points. The Highlanders improved to 7-8 overall and 1-1 in Big West play.

The Highlanders got off to a very fast start as they had a 9-0 lead before the Aggies got to the free throw line to score their first two points. The Highlanders found themselves with a double-digit lead when an Elliot Berry jump shot made it a 15-5 game. The Aggies responded by playing a press defense that limited the Highlander offense significantly as they were scoreless for three minutes and 15 seconds. Thanks to a jumper by Highlander BJ Shearry, the Highlander scoreless drought was over as they extended their lead to 17-11. The Aggies had a scoring run of their own and tied the game up at 20-20 with four minutes remaining in the first half. A jump shot by the Aggies gave them the lead, but the Highlanders’ Phil Martin responded with a jump shot of his own.. The Highlanders got back on top with a Shearry steal and dunk. At the end of the first half, the Highlanders held a 27-25 lead.

Late in the second half, the Highlanders had a large 10-point lead at 40-30 thanks to a long scoring run where Martin had seven points. The Aggies kept chipping away at the lead and managed to tie the game at 50-50 with 7:47 remaining on the clock. The Aggies got back in the driver’s seat, holding a three-point lead at 53-50 over the Highlanders. At the 3:50 mark, the Aggies were up by four, 58-54, but the Highlanders’ BJ Shearry, Robert Smith and Martin combined for a 6-0 run in the last minute of the game to give the Highlanders a two-point lead, 60-58. In the last possession of the game, the Aggies got the ball to their player Eddie Miller. With a foul to give, Highlander Martin tried to foul Miller, but no call was given as Miller went to the basket uncontested. Highlander Berry saved the day for UCR as he drew a charging foul against Miller. The defensive play made by Berry secured the Highlander victory. UCR won by a score of 60-58.

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