Senior Larry Cunningham became the UCR all-time scoring leader after he put up a season-high 31 points and led the Highlanders (7-17, 3-9 Big West) to a 79-62 victory over the visiting Hawaii Rainbow Warriors (11-14) in front of a season-high 1,214 fans at the Student Rec Center Saturday night.
Cunningham knocked down a free-throw with 1:10 remaining in the game to surpass Howard Lee (1969-72) who had held the record for nearly 36 years after finishing with 1,386 in his career. The Highlanders knocked down 57.4% of their shots as Cunningham finished 10-for-15 from the floor including three from beyond the arc and all eight of his free-throw attempts.
UCR used 16 first-half points by Cunningham and a 13-4 run half through the half to take a 34-20 lead after the first 20 minutes. The Highlanders had all players hitting their shots as they made 14-of-26 (53.8%) from the floor as a team with seven players recording baskets in the half.
Both teams would trade baskets for nearly all of the second half before the Highlander defense forced some stops down the stretch and then capitalized on the other end, eventually building double digit leads in the final minutes. The Rainbow Warriors were forced to foul in those final minutes but UCR knocked down 11 of their final 12 attempts from the foul line to pick up their third consecutive ESPNU BracketBuster win. They beat Idaho last season and Southeast Missouri in 2005-06.
The first-half run and the second-highest points scored in a half by the Highlanders on the season, proved to be too much for Hawaii. UCR shot 13-of-21 (61.9%) in the second-half and also won the battle on the boards, 30-23 to pick up their second straight victory.
Four Highlanders finished in double-figures with junior Severing Gates putting up 11 points and juniors Cleavon Barlow and Christian Soto each finishing with 10 points. Junior Aaron Scott brought down a game-high eight rebounds and finished with nine points.
Hawaii had all five of their starters finish in double figures led by Kareem Nitoto and Riley Luettegerodt who each put up 13 points.
The 31-point effort was Cunningham’s first 30-point effort of the season and seventh 20-plus game for him this season.
UCR returns to Big West action with a trip up north to face Cal Poly on Thursday and UC Santa Barbara on Saturday.