UCSD made its Division I bow Saturday, after facing a COVID-related postponement Friday. Photo credit: Mike McGinnis, ucsdtritons.com

UC San Diego led for much of the game as it resumed its coronavirus-interrupted basketball season Saturday but were unable to contain UC Irvine in a 79-65 loss at RIMAC Arena.

The Tritons never trailed in the first half and led 28-24 at halftime, but the second half was a different story.

Guard Bryce Pope’s 3-point shot gave UC San Diego a 31-24 lead 14 seconds into the second half. UC Irvine responded with seven unanswered points, the last five by Isaiah Lee, tying the score at 31.

Pope ended a 3:44 draught by making a jump shot with 16:01 left, giving the Tritons what would prove to be their last lead, 33-31.

Center Emmanuel Tshimanga started a 9-0 run that gave the Anteaters the lead for good. Guard DJ Davis ended the run with a three-pointer that put UC Irvine ahead 44-35.

The two teams were supposed to meet Friday at RIMAC Arena, but the game was postponed because a Triton exhibited COVID-19-like symptoms. It was unclear if they could go forward Saturday until a tweet at 9:42 a.m. from the team’s account read “GAME ON!”

Saturday’s game was UC San Diego’s first since Dec. 23 following cancellations of four Big West Conference games, a planned non-conference game to replace a canceled conference game and Friday’s postponement.

It was the Tritons’ first game against a Division I opponent this season.

After 20 seasons in NCAA Division II, UC San Diego’s athletics program has begun a four-year transition to NCAA Division I, culminating in full Division I status as a member of the Big West Conference for the 2024-25 academic year.

– City News Service

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