So far, so good for UC San Diego’s transition to NCAA Division I basketball.
Five days after posting the biggest victory in program history by winning at Cal, the Tritons opened their home schedule with a 75-55 win over George Washington in front of a crowd of 2,415 at RIMAC Arena.
And to anyone who has followed coach Eric Olen’s teams over the years, it was no surprise to see 3-point shooting play a key role.
The Tritons (2-0) connected on 8 of 18 from long range in the first half while using a 20-2 run to build a 16-point lead.
They made 11 of 25 from 3-point range for the game and were never threatened in the second half by a George Washington team that put up a good fight at No. 21 Maryland before losing 71-64 on Thursday night.
Sophomore forward Jake Kosakowski was one of four Tritons to score in double figures, finishing with a career-high 12 points, and helped spark that big first half run by knocking down a trio of 3-pointers over a two-minute span.
“Coach tells us that if it’s a good shot, take it with confidence and that’s what I did,” Kosakowksi said. “I had a good warmup tonight, shot felt good. First one went in and out on me but those next three all felt good. Our system is just a great way to play. As long as we move the ball and stay ready we’re going to get good shots.”
The Tritons, who led the NCAA in 3-point field goals last season (11.1 per game), created open looks with a combination of good player movement, crisp cutting and passing, and timely dribble penetration that either led to clean shots at the rim or passes to the perimeter against a collapsed defense.
The effect of that player movement and passing was that the ball seldom stuck to one side and that put George Washington’s defense into chase mode all night.
The Colonials (1-2) never caught up.
It was the first ever meeting between the two schools and the Tritons will return the favor by playing at George Washington next season. It’s the kind of nonconference matchup Olen said he will look for going forward.
Located in the heart of Washington, D.C., a long walk from the White House, George Washington is a longtime member of the Atlantic 10 Conference and has carved out a niche in an area rich in college basketball tradition.
“Those are the kinds of games we’ll be looking for: strong academic institutions and good basketball programs. That’s our model,” Olen said.
It didn’t help the visitors that they finished 3 of 19 from 3-point range, shot 36.2 percent overall and were outrebounded 42-26.
The Tritons also finished with a 39-11 edge in bench scoring led by freshman forward Francis Nwaokorie, who finished with a team-high 19 points along with five rebounds.
His first shot of the night? You guessed it: a 3-pointer. And the freshman cashed it.
Olen was a bit perturbed by his team’s 20 turnovers but liked pretty much everything else, especially the dedicated rebounding, which kept GW to one shot most of the night.
Two games. Two wins.
Hey, this Division I thing doesn’t look so tough after all.
“Our guys should have confidence,” Olen said. “As long as we come out and play the way we want to play — moving the ball, taking good shots, rebounding like we did tonight — we are going to have success more often than not.”
Carter is a freelance writer.