UC Irvine improved its standing in the Big West Conference with a 71-66 victory over UC Riverside on Thursday night. The match-up was close until the final seconds as Riverside’s Jesse LoBue missed a game-tying three and Irvine’s Michael Hunter made two free throws to seal the win for Irvine.
UCI led by 16 with 15:53 to go in the second half when Riverside went on an astonishing 29-11 run to take a two-point lead with just four minutes to go. The Anteaters were not going to let the Highlanders notch their record-breaking 12th win of the season against the men from Irvine. Freshman Eric Wise hit a three and guard Junior Michael Hunter drained a pair of threes to put Irvine up for good.
UCI held on to the win after scoring big time against one of the top-rated defenses in all of the Big West Conference. Irvine shot 55 percent from the field and are a mind-boggling 11 for 25 from 3-point land.
Irvine held Riverside to shooting 54 percent from the field and 48 percent from 3-point range. The Highlanders committed 10 turnovers and out-rebounded Irvine by four boards. The Anteaters were led by a big time performance from Hunter, who had four assists in addition to his huge 19-point effort. Kevin Bland, not to be outdone, dropped 17 points and grabbed nine rebounds. He was a perfect eight for eight from the field. Freshman guard Derrick Strings hit two 3-point field goals and finished with 12 crucial points. Brett Lauer might have to give his title of “best three shot” to Hunter, who hit five to Lauer’s three.
UCI took a 39-30 lead into halftime. The Anteaters jumped out to a 19-10 lead with just under nine minutes gone in the game. UCR went on a 10-0 run over the next two minutes and took its first lead of the night. Irvine countered that with a 9-0 run itself and went into the half with a nine-point advantage.
Kyle Austin led the Highlander attack with a game-high 21 points, while Jesse LoBue added 13. The game was watched by 1,010 fans, which was a season high for UCR.
After the game, UCI Head Coach Pat Douglass said, “I was proud of our guys in that they didn’t wilt when Riverside came back. We got some big threes at the end from Strings and Hunter. It was one of our most productive games minutes-wise this season, and I thought Kevin Bland played one of his better games in recent weeks.”
UCR fell to 11-8 overall and 3-4 in league play, while UCI improved to 7-13 with a league record at 4-3. The Anteaters are in a position to reach the top of the Big West Conference. Every game but one is against conference opponents. UCI won only one game in its first 10 matchups. They have now won five of eight and look toward a shot at being atop the Big West Conference.
Long Beach State 67 UCI 63
The UC Irvine men’s basketball team lost a close and competitive game at home on Saturday night to Long Beach State 67-63. They now hold a record of 7-14 overall and 4-4 in the Big West Conference.
Long Beach State’s Brian Freeman nailed a clutch three-point field goal to put the 49ers up 11 points with a score of 58-47 with five minutes remaining in the ball game. This seemingly put the game out of reach, but the Anteaters were not about to give up against their rivals yet.
The Anteaters stormed back with a 7-0 run highlighted by senior guard Brett Lauer’s three-pointer. The 49ers left the door ajar and gave the Anteaters hope with their inability to connect on late-game free throws. Junior guard Michael Hunter connected on both of his free throw attempts to bring UCI to within one point at 59-58 with 1:14 to go. Unfortunately, that was as close as it was going to get. While trailing 61-58, a missed 3-point shot by Lauer shut the door on the Anteaters’ comeback attempt.
The Anteaters were led in scoring and rebounding by freshman forward Eric Wise, who had a double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds, including a perfect 8-8 from the foul line.
Hunter netted 13 points and added three steals while shooting an impressive 7-8 from the free-throw line. Lauer connected on two 3-pointers and finished with 8 total points to go along with three assists. The 49ers were led by freshman forward T.J. Robinson, who had a double-double as well as 20 points and 10 rebounds, including 8-12 from the foul line.
In the end, UCI couldn’t overcome the size disadvantage. They shot a lackluster 17-52 from the field (32.7 percent). The visiting Long Beach State 49ers shot 44 percent from the field and out-rebounded the Anteaters 41-28.
“We couldn’t match up with their size; we had four or five guys in foul trouble. We couldn’t match them on the boards and couldn’t match them in size on the inside,” said Head Coach Pat Douglass.
When asked about the performance of Wise, Coach Douglass responded, “For a freshman I thought he played extremely well, eight for eight from the free throw line, he was a bright spot in the game.”
The recorded attendance for the game was 2,917 on Saturday night at the Bren Events Center. Up next for the Anteaters is another Big West Conference match-up against Cal Poly San Luis Obispo this Thursday Feb. 5 at 7 p.m. at the Bren Events Center.
Filed Under: Sports