The Anteaters got out to an early lead and never looked back against the Lions of Loyola Marymount in the men’s basketball season opener. In an all-around team effort UC Irvine defeated the young and hungry Lions.
Despite being smaller than the opposition in the low-post, the frontcourt players of UCI proved that mere size is no match for superior skill. UCI was led by juniors Adam Rodenberg and Kevin Bland along with Michael Hunter; all of whom scored 14 points apiece. Nine of Hunter’s points held off a potential Lions comeback in the second half.
The Anteaters got out to an early lead when senior forward Patrick Sanders scored the first field goal of the game, a mid-range jump shot. He scored all of his 12 points in the first half, helping to propel the Anteaters to a commanding 41-23 lead at halftime. He ended with a very efficient 12 points on just seven field goal attempts, as well as adding a team high nine rebounds, eight of which were on the defensive end.
Point guard and chief ball handler Hunter repeatedly beat his man off the dribble at will during the second half, ending any possible comeback hopes by the visiting squad. Reserve senior guard Marcus McIntosh provided a stabilizing force off the bench in the second half as well.
The reason for the Anteaters large lead in the first half was their up-tempo style of play and an excellent field goal percentage of 59 percent.
Despite cooling off as the game progressed, they finished shooting at a high rate of 54 percent from the field.
In the absence of senior center Darren Fells, both Rodenberg and Bland played extremely well on both ends of the court. Both played their first career regular season games as UCI Anteaters. It was a good start for the ‘Eaters who began the 2007-2008 campaign with a victory.
The basketball game was held at Crawford Court for the first time in 21 years starting with the Anteaters exhibition victory this past Tuesday against the Cal Baptist Lancers. The Bren Events Center, the normal home for UCI’s men’s basketball team, is undergoing maintenance and improvements.
After the game, Coach Pat Douglass was pleased with his team’s performance, stating, ‘I thought Adam [Rodenberg] did a good job on the boards and Sanders did a good job on Johnson, number 33.’ He also praised Sanders’ rebounding ability.
When asked about Sanders’ good play, Douglass was not surprised with his performance, noting that he worked hard on his game.
Responding to the inquiries about the status of Fells, Douglass appeared optimistic about his returning in the game against Utah State, Nov. 17, scheduled to be held at the Bren Events Center.
After the game, Rodenberg stated, ‘We felt good, we had a good scout, we had good practices and we felt prepared heading into the game.’ When asked about the teams’ rebounding efforts, he added that the coach had emphasized rebounding the two days of practice leading into the game due to the height disadvantage the Anteaters were going to face.
McIntosh noted the ‘sustained team effort’ as the reason for success as well as the ability to collectively close out the game. Bland was hoping that the win and team aggressiveness would ‘set a tone for the whole season.’
Look for the Anteaters to sustain their momentum as they host the University of Nevada at the Anaheim Convention Center on Tuesday, Nov. 13 and Utah State on Saturday, Nov. 17 at the Bren Events Center.
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