A 16-4 second-half run wasn’t enough for the UC Irvine Men’s Basketball team to put Idaho away.
A bizarre five-point play was not enough to seal the victory.
With the game on the line in the final seconds, junior guard Jeff Gloger found himself in a familiar position.
Last season, Gloger nailed a buzzer beater from the free-throw line to beat Idaho.
This time, with 45 seconds remaining, Gloger came up with more last-second heroics and hit an 18-foot sideline fall-away jumper with the shot clock running down to defeat Idaho in a crucial conference game, 71-70, on Jan. 29 at the Bren Events Center in front of 2,143.
‘I didn’t hesitate with a few seconds on the clock. I was able to shake loose and I let it go,’ Gloger said.
Trying to rebound from a poor performance against Utah State two nights earlier, it would take UCI (10-7, 4-5 Big West) another half against Idaho (7-13, 5-4 Big West) to find its rhythm again.
‘I thought some guys were a little flat from Thursday’s game. A few guys struggled, but they picked it up in the second half,’ said UCI Head Coach Pat Douglass. ‘I was proud of our guys in the second half. We picked up the intensity and we got contributions from the bench. [Idaho is] very athletic. … It was hard to keep them off the boards, but we gutted this one out. It was a good win.’
‘We came out a little tight at the beginning of the game. We weren’t doing too well on offense. We weren’t playing,’ said junior guard Ross Schraeder. ‘We came in at halftime, and we talked about how to be aggressive, and I think we were aggressive in the second half and it paid off.’
Following a scoreless first half, Schraeder led the second half offensive by scoring 17 points, with all of his field goals from beyond the arc.
Down two to start the second half, the Anteaters went on a tear and led by as much as 10 points.
But the Vandals would not give up and tied the game at 49 before Schraeder and sophomore forward Nic Campbell gave UCI a boost with an incredible five-point play with nine minutes remaining.
Schraeder got open on a screen set by Campbell and hit a three from the top of the arc, and nearly fell on top of Campbell as Campbell was pushed to the floor by Schraeder’s defender who was unable to get past his screen.
That foul set up Campbell’s free throw shots and a sequence of plays never before seen by the Anteaters.
‘It was an interesting play,’ Schraeder said. ‘I don’t think I’ve ever been part of a five-point play before.’
Because it stopped a 17-7 Idaho run, the play might have been bigger than Gloger’s last-second bucket.
‘I think that the five-point play might have been the turning point,’ Douglass said.
Schraeder led three Anteaters into double figures in scoring.
Junior guard Aaron Fitzgerald came up big again with 16 points and five assists while Gloger poured in 13.
UCI had another hot shooting night, making 61 percent from the field in the second half.
Douglass was impressed with many of his players.
‘I thought Campbell’s defense, I thought he played really well,’ Douglass said. ‘Schraeder had good numbers and I thought Gloger’s rebounding in the second half was especially big.’
The Anteaters pointed to the Vandals quickness as giving them the most trouble.
‘They’re really athletic,’ Gloger said. ‘They were getting a lot of offensive rebounds and they were getting into the lane.’
Idaho’s senior forward Anton Lyons had a double-double with 17 points and 12 rebounds, but it was senior guard Dandrick Jones who gave UCI trouble all night, scoring a game-high 31 points on 13-for-24 shooting.
His most spectacular play on the night was an alley oop dunk in the second half.
‘Jones is a hard player to match up against,’ Douglass said.
‘Jones is a good player. He’s athletic,’ Gloger added. ‘You can’t guard him too close to prevent him from driving on you, but he was making his outside shot, as well. When you get a guy who can do both those things, it’s hard to defend him.’
But UCI was able to pull out a win despite Jones’ play and the Anteaters admit that after losing some games to the top Big West opponents, this victory was important.
‘It was a big win for us, we really needed it,’ Schraeder said.
‘At the beginning of the year, we weren’t picked to win the league, so each win we get, we’re pleased,’ Douglass said. ‘That was a big step for us.’
The win moves the Anteaters up to sixth place among the Big West teams as the second half of conference play begins.
UCI will go on the road to take on Pacific and CSUN this week, the two teams that currently stand in first and second place in the Big West.
The Anteaters narrowly lost to Pacific by two points on a last second jumper when they played at the Bren two weeks ago.