The 69-42 blowout win over the Broncos saw the debut of many Anteater players who look to build on last year’s 18-16 record. UCI, who made it to the final round of the Big West Conference Tournament last year, lost three of its top four scorers from the previous season. Familiar players like junior Chad DeCasas, senior Kevin Bland and junior Michael Hunter return to lead a team filled with freshman and junior players. Saturday night’s Anteater squad looked like a well-oiled machine with all its parts working together.
DeCasas scored a game-high 18 points, including four of five from 3-point land, while sophomore guard Patrick Rembert added nine points and four assists as the veteran Anteaters looked like they were top form.
The real surprise of the night was the new members of the UCI men’s basketball team. Former junior college player Zack Atkinson showed off his skills by blocking shots, snatching rebounds and on the most memorable play of the night, soaring above the defense and dunking the ball to complete the alley-oop started by Hunter with 10:44 to go in the second half.
Freshman forward Eric Wise also energized the crowd, with his eight points, seven rebounds and hard-nose play. Atkinson and Wise did not quite steal the show because every UCI player who was suited up played a role in the Anteater’s win.
The Anteaters played stifling defense all night long and only allowed the Broncos to shoot 29.3 percent from the field and held them to only one 3-point field goal. UCI mixed and matched zone, man-to-man and full court press defenses that caused 16 turnovers.
“We have pretty good depth and overall size, and can take some things away from this game. We are committed to play good defense this year,” said Coach Pat Douglass, now entering his 12th season as UCI men’s basketball coach and all-time leader in wins for the Irvine program.
The Anteaters led from the tip-off, building a 30-point-lead with less than 10 minutes remaining in the second half. The Anteaters were cheered on throughout the game by 1,148 spectators, mostly comprised of UCI students. Someone forgot to tell the student section that it was only preseason because they were in mid-season form as they were up on their feet the whole game.
“It was a good student-body turnout for the game,” Douglass said.
“We played great,” added guard Patrick Rembert. “Everybody was nervous before the game, but we got all the jitters out and are ready.”
Rembert said he was happy with how the newcomers played.
“The older guys got the younger guys involved early on. The veterans have taken a leadership role from day one,” said Rembert.
UCI’s Atkinson was also optimistic about the regular season. “We are going to do whatever it takes to win,” Atkinson said.
The UCI squad now seems to be focused on the regular season opener against Pacific Ten powerhouse University of Southern California, Nov. 15 at the Galen Center in Los Angeles at 12:30 p.m.
The ‘Eaters look ready to play.
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