The UC Irvine men’s basketball team demolished Big West Conference leading team Cal State Northridge 73-51 at home at the Bren Events Center on Wednesday night. The Bren Events Center was “blacked out” as excitement filled the air with the record UCI student turnout of over 2,500 fans.
UCI had a fast start behind the sensational shooting of senior guard Brett Lauer. He nailed 3-point field goals early and often as he put the team on his back. Lauer shot an incredible 5-5 from beyond the arc in the first half which included the first and last field goals for the Anteaters in the half, Lauer put the Anteaters ahead by 16 points at halftime with the score of 41-25. Junior guard Michael Hunter also played well with 10 first-half points, including a perfect 5-5 from the foul line.
As the second half began, UCI withstood a determined effort by CSUN to get back in the game. The Anteaters improved on their already big lead of 16 points to 28 points in the second half. UCI controlled the game from start to finish in this contest. The Anteater’s freshman forward Eric Wise overcame a slow 2-point first half to put together team highs of 18 points, nine rebounds and two blocked shots.
Lauer finished with 15 points, all of which came in his first-half performance, while sophomore guard Patrick Rembert added 13 points to go along with his six assists and four rebounds.
Michael Hunter shot for 13 points and had five steals, and senior forward Kevin Bland grabbed eight big rebounds for the Anteaters. The win improved UCI’s record to 9-17 overall with a 5-7 record in the Big West Conference.
In addition to the game, former UCI great Jerry Green was honored on Wednesday night by Athletic Director Mike Izzi on center court, receiving a loud ovation from the crowd. It is interesting to note that despite his many accomplishments and great standing with the Anteaters’ faithful, the Anteaters did not retire his jersey at this point in time.
Coach Pat Douglass expressed his respect and praise for Green.
“He built the program; Jerry came in as a freshman and three years later we won a league championship, which the school never had done. [He was] a remarkable young man and a remarkable player for four years,” Coach Douglass said.
“I thought Brett Lauer got us off to a good start, making those threes,” Coach Douglass said after the victory. “We had some contributions from the bench, which we haven’t had that much of as a team, and I thought Eric Wise had an exceptional second half.”
Douglass also commented on the crowd that night.
“It was a fun night, to be on ESPN and have the students turn out in black. I told the players it was a game they can remember,” he said.
The recorded attendance for the game was 3,450.
UCI 76 HAWAII 70
UC Irvine owned the state of Hawaii this weekend. Our baseball team took care of the four-game weekend series against the Warriors (story on page 32), and then the men’s basketball team defeated Hawaii 76-70 for an ESPNU Bracketbuster win Saturday in Honolulu. With the win, UCI improved to 10-17 overall and Hawaii went down to .500 (13-13).
UCI got a big performance from junior guard and forward Chad DeCasas, who scored a career-high 19 points in 34 minutes off the bench.
Freshman forward Eric Wise continued his solid play with 16 points and 10 rebounds, his second double-double of the season.
Junior guard Michael Hunter scored 14 points to go along with three steals and two assists. Senior guard Brett Lauer and sophomore guard Patrick Rembert recorded 10 points each. Senior Kevin Bland added 7 points, three assists and three steals.
UCI came out hot from behind the arc, as the first seven baskets of the game were 3-pointers. DeCasas registered three 3-pointers to lead all players with 11 first-half points. Hunter and Lauer had 8 points each in the first half when UCI was eight of 14 from three-point range. UCI led 38-24 at the half.
A 20-point UCI lead in the second half at 46-26 was broken down to one (61-60) with 1:59 left as a gritty Warrior team staged a comeback.
With the score at 65-63 and 1:01 remaining in regulation, Kevin Bland converted a crucial three-point play with 45 seconds left. UCI then went on to drill eight of eight free throws in the final 32 seconds to seal the victory.
UCI was 17 of 19 from the free-throw line in the second half, and 19 of 21 for the game. The Anteaters shot 47.1 percent from the field and 50 percent from three-point range (9-18).
It was the first meeting between the schools in 24 years.
“Chad DeCasas had a phenomenal game,” said Coach Pat Douglass. “This was a big road win for us at this time of the season.”
UCI looks to continue its stellar play against rival Long Beach State on the road Thursday. It looks to be getting hot at the right time.
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