Following an unexpected loss to UC Riverside on Jan. 13, the UC Irvine Men’s Basketball team held a secret players-only meeting to find a way to snap their four-game losing streak.
Although players aren’t revealing much about what was said at that meeting, whatever they talked about seems to be working, as they used fast shooting to dominate Cal State Long Beach, 78-58, on Jan. 20 at the Bren Events Center for their second straight victory.
Unfortunately, the win came at a high price.
Junior guard Ross Schraeder, known most for his sharp-shooting perimeter play, suffered a nasal fracture after being accidentally elbowed in the face while playing defense with 5:41 remaining on the clock.
Despite the setback, UCI Head Coach Pat Douglass was pleased with many of his players.
‘I thought [Adam] Metelski gave us a lift. … I thought [junior guard] Jeff Gloger put good back-to-back games together,’ Douglass said. ‘Gloger, filling the wing, I saw things that I hoped to see, playing with quickness.’
UCI (8-6, 3-4 Big West) opened up the game with a 17-2 run that quickly put the game away.
CSULB (2-14, 0-7 Big West) would get no closer than seven points in the first half before the Anteaters pulled away in the second half.
‘I think we made a conscious effort to play more people,’ Douglass said. ‘If we’re going to run, we get tired, so guys can’t play as many minutes. … I did talk to a couple of players and they wanted to run. And we can’t play six or seven guys running.’
Gloger led four Anteaters in double figures, tying a career high with 20 points on 9-for-11 shooting.
The other players included junior center Adam Metelski coming off the bench to score 12 points, senior center Greg Ethington’s 10 points, and junior guard Aaron Fitzgerald who had a double-double with 13 points and 11 assists.
‘I was glad to see Fitzgerald’s assist-to-turnover ratio at 11-to-3,’ Douglass said.
CSULB was led by their junior guard Jibril Hodges, who scored 16 points. The Anteaters shot 55 precent from the field and held the 49ers to 31 percent shooting. Ethington said the team emphasized playing defense during the game.
‘We came out with a lot of intensity defensively. That’s our goal,’ Ethington said. ‘The defense helps out our offense a lot.’
Douglass added, ‘They’re not a good perimeter shooting team, and I thought we did a good job in our post defense because they didn’t get inside.’
Although the players are not saying much about the meeting, in general terms, it’s safe to say they wanted to work together and make sure they were all on the same page.
‘We just needed to come together as a team, and that’s what we’re trying to do,’ Ethington said. ‘It starts when we get intense on defense. The only way to play defense is to rotate, help each other out, and you have to know that everyone has your back.’
Douglass was not worried about his players having a meeting without his knowledge.
‘I’m not going to assess or psychoanalyze their thought process,’ Douglass said. ‘Sometimes to know how to share the ball, to be a team, sometimes you have to verbalize what you’re thinking. And they have to do that amongst themselves.’
UCI will travel to UC Davis to play their future Big West opponent on Jan. 24, before returning to the Bren to welcome perennial powerhouse Utah State on Jan. 27 and upstart Idaho on Jan. 29.
‘It’s going to be a tough week for us,’ Douglass simply stated.