Anteaters Crush First Place Northridge
UCI 64 CSLB 57
The UC Irvine men’s basketball team, led by senior Patrick Sanders, defeated rival Long Beach State 64-57 on Thursday night at the Bren Events Center.
With the victory, UCI improved to 9-0 at the Bren Events Center, and 10-0 on campus.
Sanders recorded an Anteater-high 23 points and Michael Hunter added 15 points of his own. Darren Fells added nine points, seven rebounds, and five assists. Kevin Bland came off the bench contributing solidly for 21 points, and recorded seven points and seven rebounds.
Long Beach State (6-21, 3-10) led 24-22 at halftime, continuing its lead in the second half. The 49ers went up 38-30 on a free throw with 14:33 remaining.
UCI then went on a 10-0 run to take the lead at 48-30 on a jumper by Sanders with 12:23 left. The 49ers fought back at 55-53 on a three pointer from Donovan Morris with 4:29 left.
However, that was the last time the 49ers led as Sanders took matters into his own hands. He scored 11 of the last 13 points of the game to bring victory to the Anteaters. UCI has a slight advantage on the boards at 27-25 and so far, has recorded a season-low five turnovers.
UCI 82 CSUN 66
The Anteaters established their first-half dominance early on as they won the tip under pressure, facing the conference’s number-one team, CSU Northridge. As the ‘Eaters took the early lead with Fells establishing himself down low, the ‘Eaters seized the slow start of the Matadors and kept the lead through to the end of the first half.
In the beginning, Michael Hunter, a senior guard, was entangled in a guard battle with Josh Jenkins of Northridge. Jenkins was a big contributor for the Matadors in the first half as he scored seven points, but also committed three turnovers. The Matadors could never actually answer the faster-paced Anteaters in the first half as they committed a total of 11 turnovers, leaving the door wide open for UCI to keep a sizeable lead throughout. Fells was Irvine’s best player in the first half as he scored 12 points and had three rebounds. When asked about his performance, Fells said, ‘As always, I feel I can do better, this brings up our momentum as a team knowing we can beat the number-one team.’
At the midpoint of the first half eight, Irvine was up on the Matadors 21 to 19, but the small lead would not last long. Irvine made it a point to go up big, and stay on top throughout. As the CSUN Matadors continually committed one turnover after the other, the Anteaters took advantage.
A big three-pointer by Chad DeCasas with 6:30 to go in first half put the Anteaters up by 10 and the Matadors in a state of frustration. The Matadors’ best player throughout, guard Josh Jenkins, was a threat on offense, but also committed numerous turnovers and got mouthy with some of the Irvine faithful in the crowd. With four minutes to go in the first half, Anteaters slowed the pace and tried to control the tempo and keep their lead at nine. With 1:57 to go, UCI led CSUN 37-29. Realizing their deficit, the Matadors desperately tried to cut the lead before half time, but were unsuccessful as forward Patrick Sanders delivered a heavy block just before the buzzer sent the Matadors back to the locker room hearing nothing but the cheers from the Irvine students.
The game was important for Irvine as it approaches the Big West Tournament and attempts to continue its perfect streak at home. Going against the CSUN Matadors, the ‘Eaters were very aware that their lead from the first half could have diminished very quickly and came out with the same fast pace they started the game with.
Fells started the second half with a steal and an easy two to immediately put the momentum in the hands of Irvine. However, the Matadors would not make it easy for the Anteaters. Irvine developed a 16-point lead at one point, and seemed to be coasting to another home victory. But as the game came down to eight minutes, the Matadors started to push. Two big threes by Northridge’s junior guard Deon Tresvant brought the Matadors within eight of the Anteaters. After the Anteaters could not answer, CSUN got a quick lay up with 7:39, which brought the game within six to make it 58-52. The home streak for Irvine was in jeopardy, but the team rallied.
After a few minutes of both teams going back and forth, UCI’s Hunter made a big play by completing a four-point play with 4:34 to go, making it 64-57. Head Coach Pat Douglass said, ‘They had a little run at us, but we stayed composed. When Hunter completed that four point play, that sequence was very important for us.’ Irvine held off the Matadors for the rest of the game and coasted to an 82-66 victory on Homecoming night. The Anteaters head into the back stretch of the season with a 14-14 record and 10-0 home record.