Senior James Townsend hits a Game Winner. Slugs earn 3rd Straight Victory 

SANTA CRUZ, CA—the men’s basketball team at UCSC has been on an absolute tear as of late. Not only have they been playing outstanding defense, but they have begun to pick up the offense slack to the tune of their recent success. The Slugs are fresh off a 64-48 victory against Bethesda University on Jan. 17. They looked to continue their strong drive as Menlo College strolled into town—who are less than an hour drive away from Santa Cruz. Coach DuBois deployed his lineup of F-Creighton, F-Townsend, G-J Ponce, G-Arwine Jr and G-Marlow, which has been giving him consistent production on the court. The opening half was neck-and-neck as both teams took a 31-31 stalemate into halftime. However, thanks to some late heroics, the Slugs were able to battle back for 62-59 victory over Menlo College—achieving their first three game winning streak of the season.

“As a program, we are starting to learn how to win. How to accept adversity and find a way,” said Assistant Coach Kyle Bossier.

The game got off to quick start when UCSC jumped to 5-0 lead within the first two minutes of the game. It remained competitive throughout, as the match was tied 24-24 with 6:13 remaining on the clock. It was then that the Slugs made a 5-0 scoring run but to avail, as Menlo fought back for 31-31 tie at the half. Tyler Berkness provided a spark off the bench, leading the Slugs at the half with 10 points, included 2-2 from the three-point range. The first half was even in most statistical categories as both teams shot right under 44% from the field—hence that the game was tied at the half.

The second quarter was no different from the first, as both teams came out with great energy. It came down to the wire, after Menlo gained 46-42 lead with 10:55 reaming in the second quarter. Just when things seemed to be spiraling downward, the veterans of the Slugs made their presence felt. Arwine Jr hit a big three to take back a 51-50 lead that provided momentum for the Slugs—it was big shot that was much needed for their confidence. In the dawn of “crunch time,” Menlo College hit a clutch shot to give them a 59-57 lead with 00:45 ticks on the clock remaining. It was nail-biting moment for the Slugs until the end. Fittingly, it was Townsend who was the hero for the Slugs being one of the few seniors on the team. Not only did he tie things up at 59-59 apiece, but he also came up with three-pointer to give the Slugs a 62-59 lead with 0.7 seconds remaining—sending Kaiser Permanente Area in a frenzy. It was the biggest bucket of the game for sure, as the Slugs were able to seal the deal and obtain a 62-59 victory over Menlo. Townsend also finished with a game high 17 points in addition to his five rebounds. He went 7-14 from the field, including 3-5 from three-point range. The three-pointer was the decisive factor because both teams rounded up this game even in most of the stats.

UCSC’s bench was at it again, outscoring their opponents in nine of their last ten games—a big key to this team’s offense. In spite of the bench’s great performance, it was evident that the guidance of the seniors on this team made a difference for a squad comprised of majority underclassmen. Their experience flourished as the game progressed, especially with less than five minutes remaining.

“Our seniors really carried us down the stretch. Marshall it a big 3 with about four minutes to go and of course, James hit the big one. It was a great moment for our seniors, who have led us all year,” added Bossier.

The win over Menlo brings the Slugs to a 10-11 record, while still having four games left in the schedule. Their next contest will come against UC Merced, in what will be their final home game of the season—senior night for players on the team on February 10th.  This victory will certainly give the Slugs some additional adrenalin to win their next game, not only to bid farewell to their seniors on a positive note, but a chance to finally pull their record even at .500. They have the opportunity to wrap the season up with a winning record.

By Javier Gutierrez                         *All stats acquired from Goslugs.com