UCI 80 Cal Poly 63
Junior guard Micheal Hunter scored a career-high 20 points and freshman Eric Wise provided his usual consistent effort in UC Irvine’s 80-63 win over Cal Poly San Luis Obispo on the road Saturday.
Hunter was eight of 15 from the field, four of eight from three-point range, and dished out eight assists. Wise recorded a solid 16 points and a team-high seven rebounds. Senior Kevin Bland scored 11 points and handed out a career-high seven assists.
UCI (4-11, 2-1 in Big West), played a solid first half as they always do. They went into the second half with a 36-32 lead.
However, what made this UCI win different was the Anteaters efforts after the midway point in the second half.
Over the last year and a half, the UCI men’s basketball team has been known to keep pace with almost every one of its opponents until the final 10 minutes of the second half, where they traditionally crumble. This was not the case on Saturday as UCI turned the tables and went on an 18-3 run to command the lead.
A layup by Bland with 7:59 left put the Anteaters up 69-49. UCI led by as many as 21 points on two occasions late in the game.
It was arguably the best performance of the year by the squad. The Anteaters were nine of 17 from three-point range, and five of six in the second half.
UCI outrebounded the Mustangs 40-26, including 14 offensive rebounds. In the passing category, the ‘Eaters recorded a season-high 19 assists on 32 baskets.
Although the Anteaters’ strong second half was characterized by efficient shooting, 50 percent to Cal Poly’s 35 percent, it was UCI’s smart play that strung it all together. The Anteaters only committed an impressive three turnovers, eight on the game, in the second half. A statistic that is especially impressive considering their 19 assists.
“Micheal Hunter played a solid game and I was pleased with how we took care of the ball,” said UCI Head Coach Pat Douglass.
Coach Douglass also alluded to the performances of Patrick Rembert and Zack Atkinson.
In 26 minutes of play, Rembert put together a solid nine points, four rebounds and two assists.
Atkinson added nine points of his own to go along with three rebounds and two blocked shots in just 19 minutes of play off the bench.
With more consistent play on both sides of the court, Atkinson should find himself in the game more. A player with his size and leaping ability should not be kept on a chair.
UCSB 68 UCI 61
On Thursday, UCI fought back from a 13-point defecit but could not prevail as they fell to UC Santa Barbara 68-61 at the Thunderdome.
Michael Hunter led UCI with 17 points, 10 of which came in the second half. Eric Wise finished with 13 points and six rebounds.
UCSB (7-8, 1-2) jumped out to a 32-21 halftime lead behind five three-pointers from freshman Will Brew.
The Gauchos shot a lights out 59.1 percent in the half on 13 of 22 shooting.
However, the Anteaters came out firing in the second half. At 36-23, UCI took off on a 24-11 run behind 10 points from Hunter to tie the game at 41. UCI made 10 of their first 12 shots in the second half during the rally.
UCSB fought back, but not for long as UCI finally took the lead at 52-51 on a basket by freshman Adam Folker with 7:33 to play. UCSB would regain the lead on the next play on a pair of free throws by James Nunnally.
Wise would give the ‘Eaters their final lead of the game on layup with 5:50 play to put the Anteaters up 54-53.
The Gauchos would outscore UCI 15-7 to close the game.
Chris Devine converted seven of eight free throws, and Powell would score five in the wanning minutes.
UCSB shot 55.3 percent for the game, while UCI shot 43.6 percent. After making 10 of their first 12 shots, UCI only made five of their next 13.
UCI outrebounded the Gauchos 30-25 and snagged 13 offensive rebounds.
Game of the Week
The UC Irvine men’s basketball team will host a pair of Big West Conference rivals this week at the Bren Events Center, facing the Pacific Tigers on Thursday night at 7 p.m. The Tigers are led in scoring by a trio of seniors. Forward Anthony Brown, guard Chad Troyer and forward Bryan LeDuc all average about 10 points per contest for the well-balanced Pacific Tiger squad.
Following the contest against the Tigers, UCI will face UC Davis on Saturday at 1 p.m. in a game televised by Fox Sports Net. UC Davis is led in scoring and rebounding by Notre Dame transfer Joe Harden. Listed at 6 feet 8 inches and 210 pounds, Harden is a big guard who brings a big game.
Heading into these matchups at home, UCI holds a dismal 4-11 record with a 2-1 record in Big West Conference play. The Anteaters are a young group with only two seniors, forward Kevin Bland and guard Brett Lauer.
The Anteaters dropped their first six games and lost nine of their first 10 contests. UCI hopes that Big West Conference play and three games at home will change their luck and turn a previously disappointing season around.
This season has had its bright spots. Freshman forward Eric Wise has averaged almost 13 points a game and been a pleasant surprise for the Anteaters. Wise, a freshman from King High School, has met and exceeded expectations thus far in his first season with the Anteaters.
Seniors Kevin Bland and Brett Lauer have also improved their game in their final season at UCI. Bland is averaging over 11 points and just about seven rebounds a game. Lauer has shot extremely well from three point range; he nailed seven out of 12 threes in the thrilling overtime home victory over Cal State Fullerton. He was named Big West Player of the Week.