Similar to auditing a class, the UC San Diego basketball team will not receive credit for this season.

In the final season of a four-year transition from Division II, UCSD is not eligible to participate in the postseason Big West Tournament in March. But that has not stopped the Tritons from finding on-court success.

Entering today’s game against Hawaii in La Jolla, Calif., the Tritons are 5-1 and in third place in the Big West.

“We’re playing good basketball,” said coach Eric Olen, whose Tritons won their first five league games before falling to UC Irvine on Thursday. “I thought we played pretty well (Thursday) night, good enough to get it done. It’s hard to win on the road against good teams.”

The Tritons’ surprising start aligns with their unpredictable star guard. In league play, 6-foot-3 Bryce Pope is averaging 20.5 points on drives, 3s (41%) and H-O-R-S-E-innovative shots. Too often, the chant from the sideline to Pope is: “No! … No! … Nice shot!”

“That’s part of his game,” Olen said. “I think that’s something, as a coach, you have to understand and then learn to live with, so to speak. … The tricky part of coaching guys like Bryce is giving them the freedom to allow them to be themselves and do things they’re really good at. (But) try to to teach them how you want them to play. And understand it’s not going to be perfect. And then you’ll have to live with some aggression or, maybe, some shots I wouldn’t necessarily draw up.”

Olen said Pope has improved his shot selection. Of the creative shots, Olen said, “that’s just part of him being him. You can’t take that away or else he’s not going to be who he is in terms of being a great player.”

The Tritons have a freestyle offense that often can include four players with point-guard skills in the lineup. Hayden Gray is the primary point, but Aniwaniwa Tait-Jones, who begin his career at Hawaii Hilo, and Pope also are distributors. In the Tritons’ offense, Olen said, “the ball moves a lot and a lot of different guys have read-and-react decision making and it’s not as scripted. You need multiple ball-handlers.”

Francis Nwaokorie, a 6-7, 210-pound forward, is an active rebounder (7.2 per game) and screen-setter. “In a lot of ways, he’s the heart and soul of what we’re doing,” Olen said.

Nwaokorie will be key in creating plays against the Rainbow Warriors. “Hawaii is awesome at navigating screens and not getting screened and staying attached to their own (assigned player) when guys are beating screens,” Olen said.

The ’Bows fell to Long Beach State in Thursday’s opener of a two-game road trip.

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