In its first match of the season, the UC Irvine Men’s Basketball team went up against Simon Fraser University of Burnaby, British Columbia.
If only teams in the Big West Conference were as easy to beat as Simon Fraser, the Anteaters could pencil in a trip to next year’s March Madness.
Led by a nearly flawless performance by junior guard Jeff Gloger, UCI defeated Simon Fraser 84-62 in an exhibition game on Nov. 6 at the Bren Events Center. Gloger notched a double-double by scoring 22 points to go along with 13 rebounds. He shot a perfect 9-for-9 from the floor and also added four assists.
UCI Head Coach Pat Douglass was happy with his team’s effort.
‘I think we played with a lot of energy and have a little more quickness around the perimeter than we had last year,’ Douglass said.
Douglass described Gloger’s play as ‘quite a performance.’
‘In that wing position, [Gloger is] going to open up his game,’ Douglass said. ‘It gave him more freedom to expand his game a little bit. It places him 15 to 20 feet from the bucket whereas [last season] he was point guard and he was setting up the offense at 30 feet.’
‘Every game is not going to be like that, I promise you,’ Gloger said about his performance. ‘But it was nice to come out here. It’s a nice confidence booster. I’m pleased with my performance, but there are many games to be played.’
This exhibition game finally allowed fans to catch a glimpse of this year’s revamped roster of UCI players.
Resembling little of the team that finished 11-17 last year and failed to qualify for the Big West Conference tournament, six of the 11 players this year are new to the team. Although many of the players are new, Douglass believes that with a little more practice, the team will play to its potential
‘I think they’re very motivated to do well,’ Douglass said. ‘We have a lack of experience at this level of play. Not that we’re a young team, but we just got to learn how to play.’
Although the new players may still need time to learn the ropes, they played well against Simon Fraser. Junior center Adam Metelski and freshman forward Darren Fells notched eight and seven points, respectively. Junior guard Shamar Armstrong came off the bench and went 3-for-6 from beyond the arc to contribute nine points and two blocks. Junior guard Aaron Fitzgerald started his first game for UCI and dished out nine assists.
‘[Fitzgerald] makes us very effective in the transition,’ Douglass said. ‘Metelski and [sophomore center Andrew] Bruckner give us a little bit of bulk inside, which is going to be good against teams that are more physical.’
However, it was the returning players who contributed most to the Anteaters’ victory. Junior guard Ross Schraeder scored 16 points on 5-for-12 shooting. Senior forward Greg Ethington scored 14 points and added seven rebounds.
‘[Schraeder] is just a great shooter,’ Ethington said. ‘It’s important for us to just get him to get off the screens and hitting shots.’
However, if anything could compare to Gloger’s performance, it was Ethington’s play within a minute-and-a-half stretch in the second half. Ethington missed a five-foot bank shot but jumped up, palmed the ball with one hand as it came out of the rim, and while still in the air, gently kissed it off the glass to score after his first miss.
On the next possession, Ethington made an off-balance hook shot from eight feet away.
Seconds later, after a Simon Fraser turnover and subsequent fast break, Ethington elevated for a slam dunk, which brought the crowd to a frenzy.
‘That’s just an adrenaline rush,’ Ethington said with a smile. ‘It feels really good, that’s all I can say.’
Although the victory was promising, the Anteaters know they are still a long way from getting to where they want to be as a team.
‘It’s early in the season,’ Douglass said. ‘I think we have something to build on. Fans came out to see that this is going to be an exciting team to watch.’