Having a lead of any kind has been a luxury for UC Riverside this season, so when it took a 17-point advantage in the first half against visiting Long Beach State on Thursday night, even Highlander Coach John Masi wondered if his team could hold it.
Riverside hung on, 77-73, in a Big West Conference game, but not before making it interesting with poor free-throw shooting and decisions down the stretch. Nonetheless, the victory -- Riverside's first against a Division I opponent this season -- ended a losing streak at five games and sent Long Beach to its ninth consecutive loss.
Freshman Nate Carter led Riverside (2-7, 1-2) with 25 points and nine rebounds. Tony Darden scored 19 points and Kevin Roberts added 16 points and 10 rebounds for the 49ers (1-10, 0-2), who were trying to get first-year Coach Kevin Reynolds, a former Riverside player and assistant, his first win at the Division I level.
Masi called Riverside's near collapse a panic. "We haven't had many leads and we haven't been in too many tight games this season," he said.
The Highlanders made eight of their first 10 shots and led, 23-10, after a three-point basket by Carter 7:30 into the game. They led by as many as 19 points before halftime.
They led, 60-48, after Carter's layup with 9:51 left and seemed in control, even as the 49ers pulled to within 70-64 with 2:47 left. After Riverside's Mark Miller (17 points) made a basket, Long Beach's Darden was fouled while making a three-pointer. Darden made the free throw to make it 72-68 and made another three-pointer to cut it to 72-71 with 45 seconds left.
But Carter's putback five seconds later gave the Highlanders some breathing room and they made three of their final six free throws.
-- Paul McLeod
Gonzaga 85, Loyola Marymount 73 -- The Lions (6-10) never led, falling behind, 10-0, at the start at Spokane, Wash., en route to their 16th consecutive loss to the Bulldogs (10-5) in a West Coast Conference opener.
Ronny Turiaf led Gonzaga with a career-high 25 points. Andy Osborn had 17 points for Loyola.
The Lions closed to 56-53 before Blake Stepp started an 11-1 Gonzaga run with a fastbreak layup and one of his five three-pointers.
Miggins was a virtual no-show, getting into foul trouble and scoring four points.
Reserve Dustin Geddis led Portland with 22 points and 18 rebounds.
After a close first half, Pepperdine took a 50-37 lead with nine unanswered points, including six by Boomer Brazzle (15 points). Portland never got closer than eight points.
UC Santa Barbara 62, Idaho 53 -- Mark Hull scored 21 points and Branduinn Fullove scored six of his team's last 10 points as the Gauchos (5-8, 2-1 Big West) stopped the Vandals (5-7, 1-2) at Moscow, Idaho.
Fullove returned after missing two games because of a groin injury. He had 12 points.
Idaho's Tyrone Hayes had 21 points.
From Associated Press