For most of the game, the matchup between the UC Irvine Men’s Basketball team and Cal State Los Angeles at the Bren Events Center on Nov. 11 wasn’t a pretty one to watch for the 1,059 in attendance.
The Anteaters shot 38 percent from the field, 65 percent from the free-throw line and committed 17 turnovers. On the other side, the Golden Eagles shot 29 percent from the field, 38 percent from the free-throw line and had 21 turnovers. UCI’s 12 fouls and CSULA’s 25 slowed the game’s tempo.
Fortunately for UCI, a 20-3 run in the last eight minutes of the first half proved to be all they needed to cruise to an easy 67-41 victory over CSULA in their second and final exhibition game.
With eight minutes to go in the first half and the Golden Eagles threatening to close UCI’s five-point lead, junior guard Ross Schraeder stepped into the post and took a charge from CSULA sophomore guard Mario Kralj, who was attempting a layup.
Momentum shifted after Schraeder took the charge, as UCI started its 20-3 run with a fastbreak that ended with junior guard Aaron Fitzgerald passing the ball to freshman forward Darren Fells for an easy layup.
As the Anteaters began to clamp down on defense, the Golden Eagles couldn’t seem to find the rim until Kralj ended the impressive run with a three-pointer at the buzzer. By that time, UCI was already up 36-14.
‘We could have probably made a few more shots, but it was a pretty good half of basketball,’ said UCI Head Coach Pat Douglass.
Freshman forward Darren Fells said, ‘We did pretty good. It was a lot better than last week.’
Schraeder led all UCI players with a game high of 16 points. Senior center Greg Ethington grabbed eight rebounds and scored 12 points on five-for-nine shooting. Junior guard Shamar Armstrong came off the bench and scored 10 points in only 18 minutes of play.
Junior guard Jeff Gloger had another stellar night with nine points, 10 rebounds, five assists and four steals. Douglass was impressed with the development he saw from his team, primarily on their defense, during the week between their two exhibition games.
‘I think our energy, defensively, was a big improvement,’ Douglass said. ‘I thought our defense contested shots, we rotated to the ball, [the team played with] much better intensity.’
He also liked what he saw from the two rookies, Fells and freshman forward Patrick Sanders who started in this game.
‘I thought Fells and Sanders showed their athleticism,’ Douglass said. ‘We haven’t had two athletic freshmen like them in quite some time.’
Like last week’s exhibition game, instead of extending the lead, the Anteaters shut down their opponent in the first half, only to let them find their rhythm and keep pace in the second half. Armstrong drilled a three-pointer from the baseline corner to stretch the Anteaters’ lead to 26 with 11:15 to go in the game. Then, led by Golden Eagles junior forward Jon Folonis, CSULA went on a 14-5 run to cut the lead to 17.
However, foul trouble caught up to the Golden Eagles. The Anteaters continued driving to the basket, drawing fouls and earning free-throw attempts, extending their lead back to 26 before the game was over.
The Anteaters shot 35 percent from the field in the second half. Although their shot selection at times seemed ill-advised, Douglass wasn’t worried about it.
‘It’s early in the year. We didn’t shoot the ball particularly well,’ Douglass said. ‘We didn’t come out and sustain at the start of the second half.’
Fells said, ‘I guess fatigue got us. But we should be able to pick it up.’
Fitzgerald agreed with Douglass and Fells.
‘I think we did real good on defense,’ Fitzgerald said. ‘We kinda got tired in the second half and lost a little focus.’
Douglass believes that this exhibition game was productive for the team and that his players will continue to develop and improve as the season progresses.
‘It’s early. This team is going to need eight to 10 games under its belt before it’s solid,’ Douglass said. ‘I think by the second half of league play, [it] is going to be a pretty good team.’