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Alexander: Another dominant performance for UCR

By in Press Enterprise on December 21, 2017

By Jim Alexander

RIVERSIDE — The ultimate identity of UC Riverside’s men’s basketball team may not hinge on defensive intensity. But a look at the numbers suggests that it’s a necessary ingredient.

The Highlanders overwhelmed a good Valparaiso team, albeit one missing its two leading scorers, Wednesday night at the Rec Center. UCR held Valpo to 33 percent shooting for the evening and 21.4 percent in the first half, including a 4-for-32 night from three-point territory.

The result was a 73-60 triumph over the Crusaders from the Missouri Valley Conference. It probably caused some confusion, over which team exactly was 4-7 and which was 9-4.

Valparaiso, the 9-4 team, in fairness was missing nearly 28 points a game with the absences of senior Tevonn Walker (16.4) and junior Joe Burton (11.5). The Crusaders, who started out 8-0, had been without Walker (mono) for the previous three games and had lost two, but had won at Santa Clara Monday night in the opener of this west coast trip.

Then again, they started out 3 for 23 from the field Wednesday night. They sort of looked the way the Highlanders had looked Sunday at Montana, in a 77-61 loss in which UCR started out with a 9-0 deficit and shot 8 for 26 in the first half.

Defense is important. No coach would dare say otherwise. And yet when UCR’s Dennis Cutts was asked if that might be the team’s calling card, he pointed in another direction.

“Through 11 games we’re under 39 percent” in defensive field goal percentage, he said. “That’s been a consistent kind of deal for us.

“Our (emphasis) is offensive efficiency. When we come out like we did against Air Force (Dec. 8, a 67-48 win) or the first half of this game, we’re looking to play for each other, share the basketball. That’s the calling card for […]    

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