Basketball backs Puerto Rico
Toreros raise money for hurricane relief efforts in home exhibition against Arizona State
Ryan Ferron | Contributor | The USD Vista
The University of San Diego men’s basketball team hosted an exhibition game on Wednesday, Nov. 1 against Arizona State University, with all of the proceeds from the game going to Hurricane Maria relief efforts in Puerto Rico.
The biggest story of this game was its cause, as the event served as a chance for the campus to live up to its “Changemaker” name and make a positive impact in helping others.
The night was also an emotional one for Torero forward Jose Martinez. A Puerto Rico native, he and his family were heavily affected by the forces of Hurricane Maria.
Martinez’s efforts provided huge momentum boosts for the Toreros. His five points in the first half ended a significant run for the Sun Devils and allowed the Toreros to keep the score close at the half, and his three-pointer in the second half brought the game to a one- point deficit after replacing Juwan Gray, who was in foul trouble most of the matchup.
Players and staff showed their support of the efforts throughout the night. The Puerto Rican national anthem, “La Borinqueña,” was played along with the “Star-Spangled Banner” before the game. A large donor was also honored with the game ball at halftime by USD athletic director Bill McGillis. Lastly, players from the Toreros were vocal in their encouragement of Martinez both on and off the court, and many wore wrist tape that said “Pray for PR.”
Proceeds from the game were estimated to total between $5,000 and $10,000, and will be donated to Catholic Charities USA.
Not only was this an opportunity for fans to support a charitable cause, but those in attendance also had a chance to see many familiar and fresh faces on the court for the Toreros in their heavily contested matchup against the Sun Devils. Although the Toreros lost 85-77, they held the game close until the end against one of the better schools in the Pac-12 conference.
The familiar faces for the fans began to start a quick first-quarter run, with junior guard Olin Carter III and senior forward Cameron Neubauer each hitting two three-pointers in the first four minutes of the game to contribute to an early 14-6 lead. The Sun Devils, however, were able to go on a 20-7 run and take a 26-21 lead heading into the second media timeout.
It was mainly a showcase for Carter and Neubauer for the first half until the final minutes, where junior forward Isaiah Piniero, sophomore forward Alex Floresca, and junior guard Isaiah Wright began to get involved, contributing eight of the last 12 points for the Toreros going into the half.
The interesting part is that none of them saw much action in a USD uniform last season.
Piniero, a redshirt junior, was on the court for the first time as a Torero on Wednesday after missing the 2016-17 season due to transfer rules. The former Portland State Viking made the most of his opportunities for the Toreros. He played 28 minutes off the bench, using his versatility to play nearly every position on the floor and helping the team through some early foul trouble. He ended the game as the team’s second leading scorer with 15 points and its leading rebounder with seven. The forward should be a bright spot for the Toreros during the upcoming season.
Meanwhile, Floresca, a redshirt sophomore, missed the 2016-17 while recovering from labrum surgery. He won the starting job for Wednesday after impressing coaches at practice. While he didn’t fill the stat sheet, he did provide a presence in the middle, getting offensive rebounds for the Toreros while preventing Arizona State big men from getting into the paint.
Wright, a redshirt junior, also missed the 2016-17 due to transfer rules. A former guard for the University of Utah, Wright started at guard for the Toreros on Wednesday alongside Carter III. Wright’s grittiness on defense and his constant attacks to the basket made it difficult for the Sun Devils to get settled on the court. Wright had seven points, seven rebounds, and four assists on the night.
Going into the half, the Toreros were down 48-45, with much of the production coming from the perimeter. The three-pointers continued to come early in the second half, with three from both sophomore guard Hunter Summy and Carter III, who ended the game with five makes from deep. Even though the Toreros were able to get a lead with six minutes left, foul trouble, stamina, and poor execution down the stretch led to the Sun Devils taking over late and never looking back.
Men’s basketball opens their season this Sunday in a road matchup with San Jose State before returning home on Nov. 15 to play Robert Morris.