UCI rides four-game win run into LBSU match; clinches undefeated home conference record.
UCI 77, UTA 70
It was the Anteaters’ fourth straight win. The UC Irvine men’s basketball team (16-13) defeated the University of Texas at Arlington (15-10) on Saturday evening, making two-thirds of their shots in the second half to pull off a seven-point non-conference victory on the road.
In the annual BracketBuster game, UCI shared the wealth. Seniors Adam Folker, Mike Wilder and Daman Starring scored 16, 14 and 13 points respectively, junior guard Chris McNealy added 12 points and sophomore sensation Will Davis II led the Anteaters with 16 points, six rebounds and five blocked shots, extending his single-season swats record to 65. Davis is now averaging 2.3 rejections per game.
For UTA, Jamel Outler scored a career-high 21 points, while Brandon Edwards registered his third consecutive double-double, pulling down 13 rebounds and adding 16 points for the Mavericks. It wasn’t enough to catch up to the ’Eaters, who picked apart Arlington’s defense.
“It was a frustrating game,” UTA coach Scott Cross said. “In the second half, we had to make some adjustments and [UCI] shot layups to get their confidence going. It’s hard to get back into a game when you’re not very good defensively.”
Irvine never trailed on Saturday against UTA, who entered the contest on a five-game winning streak. Irvine led at halftime, 31-26.
UCI’s biggest lead came with 2:23 remaining in the game when Starring took a pass from Wilder and drained a three-pointer, extending the advantage to 14. Up 72-58, UCI let Arlington slip back into the contest, finishing the game on a 12-5 UTA run.
After Outler buried a three-pointer to put the Mavericks within five with 17 seconds on the clock, Starring iced the game at the charity stripe, knocking down both free-throw attempts with five seconds remaining.
“This was an important win for us to prepare for our three remaining conference games and the postseason, however far we can take it,” Coach Russell Turner said.
In the win, Wilder dished out a team-high eight assists, while Folker tied a career-high with five assists. With their 16th win, UCI is having their best season since totaling 18 wins in 2008. Three regular season games remain, but one more victory ensures the Anteaters’ first winning season in Turner’s third season at the helm.
The biggest matchup of the season is scheduled for this Saturday, as the Long Beach State 49ers enter the Bren for UCI’s senior night. Holding a perfect 8-0 record at home in the Big West, UCI has the opportunity to finish undefeated at home in conference for the first time since finishing 8-0 in 2001. Irvine last beat Long Beach on Homecoming Night in 2011, when then-sophomore Mike Wilder had a game for the ages with 24 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks — all career-highs. Saturday’s game will be the last for Wilder, Folker, Starring and Flowers at the Bren Events Center.
Pacific 59, UCI 68
UC Irvine defeated the Pacific Tigers 68-59 in a Big West Conference game at the Bren on Wednesday, Feb. 20.
UC Irvine is now 11-1 at home, 8-0 in league games at home and 9-6 overall in conference matchups.
Shooting 34.9 percent from three-point territory this season, which ranks 117th out of 347 Division I teams, UCI upped the ante against Pacific, draining eight of 16 attempts from beyond the arc. It was arguably their best shooting performance of the season. UCI also grabbed 40 rebounds.
Ranked 13th in the nation in assists per game (16.2), UCI dished out 15 assists on Wednesday.
Senior Daman Starring led the team with 16 points. Senior Adam Folker had his second double-double of the season and fifth of his career, finishing with 13 points and 13 rebounds. Sophomore Will Davis II also had a nice game, scoring 13 points on six-of-eight shooting, while adding eight rebounds. Senior Michael Wilder had 12 points, hitting a team-high three 3-pointers.
“This was a great win for us,” Folker said. “Pacific is a great team with good shooters. But we were intense on the defensive side and we stuck to our game plan on the offensive side. This was a really good home win for us.”
Tony Gill led Pacific with 17 points and seven rebounds, and Lorenzo McCloud added 11 points.
In the first half, UCI opened up with a 15-6 lead. Pacific found their rhythm seven minutes into the contest, storming back on a 13-2 run to obtain their first lead of the game, 19-17. The Anteaters regained the lead when Starring hit a three-pointer with seven minutes left in the half to make it 22-19. Irvine entered the half leading 30-26.
The Tigers caught fire to start the second half, recapturing the lead at 33-32 in the first minute. With 11 minutes remaining, Wilder hit back-to-back threes in a span of 23 seconds, giving UCI a 44-38 advantage.
After a Pacific timeout, sophomore guard Travis Souza hit two consecutive three-pointers off the bench to give UCI a 50-40 lead, the biggest of the game, with eight minutes left. Irvine was able to close out the game without incident, winning 68-59.
“We did things we have to do,” Coach Turner said. “We played defense at a high level, rebounded the ball, passed the ball well and made some key threes. We played the way that we need to play to be successful. I am happy with my team for that.”
The Anteaters shot 46 percent for the game, while the Tigers only hit 33 percent of their shots. Pacific’s one takeaway was their bench scoring, outdueling Irvine’s reserves, 37-10.
“We just have to play hard to keep this winning streak alive,” Folker said. “We need to continue to be unselfish and play with intensity on the defensive end.”