Highlanders

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UC Riverside Highlanders

General Information

  • NCAA Division: Division I
  • Conference: Big West
  • City: Riverside, California
  • Stadium: Student Recreation Center Arena

Championships:

  • National Championships: 0
  • Conference Titles: 0
  • NCAA Tournaments: *1970, *1972, *1973, *1974, *1975, *1979, *1980, *1984, *1986, *1988, *1989, *1990, *1991, *1992, *1994, *1995, *1997(*Indicates Division II appearances)

Past Conferences:

  • Big West

Team History

The UC Riverside Highlanders men’s basketball program hasn’t had a lengthy history in Division I ranks, but the institution built its reputation through the Division II ranks. UC Riverside’s founding unit, the Citrus Experiment Station, was not initially recognized for its athletic achievements. Through the cultivation of oranges, it made significant contributions to California’s agricultural industry.

The program would take nearly two decades to build a foundation for basketball in the Div. II NCAA Tournament. There were fewer established programs during the earlier tournaments, especially in Div II.

The Highlander men’s basketball program punched its first ticket to the Division II NCAA Tournament in 1970. The odds of making a run in the program’s first postseason appearance were not in their favor; however, the school would reach the Final Four before falling to Philadelphia Textile. Regardless of the tough loss, the team ended their season on a high note by defeating Buffalo State in the National Third Place game.

After a brief year’s absence, the school qualified for the tournament again in the 1972 season, but it was during the period from 1973 to 1975 that they made some significant progress in hopes of creating a great Div. II program. Due to the program’s accomplishments, they managed to reach the Elite 8 for three consecutive seasons.

With several appearances in the Elite 8, despite occasional absences, the school has established a reputation for excellence. Another notable surge in the UC Riverside team stats occurred during the 1989 season. Unfortunately, the UC Riverside program lost a one-point game to Southeast Missouri State in the Final Four. By winning the National 3rd-place game against Jacksonville State, they ended the season on a positive note.

For the next five consecutive seasons, the school would continue to participate in the March Madness Tournaments in the Div. II ranks. In the 1995 Div. The school reached its pinnacle by advancing to the National Championship game in the NCAA Division II tournament. Although they narrowly won their Final Four matchup against Indiana (PA), they managed to reach the title game.

Making the National Championship game was the zenith for the program since its inception. Southern Indiana defeated UC Riverside in the National championship game. Regardless of the result, this put the school on a pedestal to make the next transition. After losing against Montana State-Billings in the Regional Quarterfinals, the dream to make the next transition came to fruition for the institution. As a whole, the university made the complete transition to Division I in the 2001 season.

Under the leadership of coach John Masi, UC Riverside faced numerous challenges in making the transition to Division I athletics. The differences in style, matchups, and pace of the game proved to be significant hurdles, and the team struggled to compete in the highly competitive Big West conference. The program went through many coaching changes in an effort to lead the team in the right direction.

The Highlander men’s basketball did not register a winning season until Jim Wooldridge orchestrated the team for his second year at the school. With a 17-13 record in the 2009 season, this would be the only winning season until the 2020 season, which happened in coach David Patrick’s last season at the school.

Mike Magpayo will lead the UC Riverside Highlanders for his third season with the program. The team arguably showcased its best season since joining the Division I ranks, but the team faces difficult NCAAB odds to win the Big West as the regular season is winding down. The program is looking for its first opportunity to participate in any Division I post-season tournaments since making the transition.

All Time Records

  • Points Scored

Larry Cunningham 1,502
Taylor Johns 1,383
Dikymbe Martin 1,315

  • Rebounds

Taylor Johns 774
Callum McRae 572
Alex Larsson 553

  • Assists

Zyon Pullin 361
Dikymbe Martin 268
Dominick Pickett 262

  • Steals

Larry Cunningham 123
Dominick Pickett 118
Dikymbe Martin 115

FAQs

What is the highest win total in program history?

The UC Riverside men’s basketball team has amassed a remarkable 20 wins in the 2022-23 season, which is a significant achievement for the program. There is no doubt that this is one of the highest win totals for the team since transitioning to Division I athletics back in 2001, regardless of whether the number fluctuates as the regular season draws to a close.

Who is the winningest coach in program history?

Over six years, Jim Wooldridge amassed the highest number of wins among UC Riverside men’s basketball coaches, with a total of 70 wins on his resume. However, his tenure was also marked by a record number of losses, totaling 112 over the same period. Having led the team to a 50-30 record in just three seasons, Mike Magpayo has emerged as the program’s most successful coach. It is worth noting that this record is subject to change as he is likely to keep his job for the foreseeable future with the program. His record of winning in the Division I era is the only one in school history.

What was the worst season in program history?

The program does not have many seasons under its belt at the Division I ranks, which has made it harder for the program to recruit at a high level. UC Riverside has had many losing seasons since becoming a member of the Big West, but its worst season took place in the 2006 season.
The Highlanders went a ghastly 5-23 overall and matched that performance with a 3-11 showing in conference play in the 2006 season. Another close second was the 2013 season when the program posted a record of 6-25 with a conference play record of 3-15.

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