The UC Irvine men’s basketball team split its final two home games of the regular season. The Anteaters defeated UC Davis 79-62. The Anteaters then lost to Cal State Fullerton in a game where they trailed from the outset and couldn’t get their rhythm. UCI’s record now stands at 15-15 with a 9-7 record in Big West Conference games heading into the Big West Conference Tournament.
The Anteaters avenged an early season defeat in beating the Aggies 79-62 on Thursday night at the Bren Events Center. At the time of the opening tip, the fourth seed in the Big West Tournament, and the ability to rest in the first round, was still a small possibility. As with all previous on-campus games, the Anteaters started and finished the game undefeated with a 12-0 record on campus. There were a few scary moments in this game in which senior center Darren Fells and sophomore guard Michael Hunter were both injured on the court. Fells was able to return to the game and Hunter, who banged knees with the opposition, sat out for the rest of the game. Luckily for the Anteaters, neither injury caused Fells or Hunter to miss the game on Saturday night against Cal State Fullerton. The Anteaters took an eight-point lead into halftime against UCD behind a team-high 10 points in the first half by guard Hunter and sophomore guard Chad DeCasas. UC Irvine never looked back and defeated UCD by 17, 79-62 before 1281 fans.
The Anteaters were led in scoring by senior forward Patrick Sanders who had 18 points, five rebounds and four blocked shots. DeCasas finished the game with 13 points and five assists. Hunter added 12 points. Senior guard Marcus McIntosh and center Fells both netted 11 points in the winning effort. Junior forward Kevin Bland led the team in rebounds and steals at seven and four, respectively.
After the win, Coach Pat Douglass said, “Sanders as always made some key buckets, and I thought DeCasas had one of his better ball games. He had 10 at the half and I thought he played really well.” Douglass also mentioned that they “have to play with energy defensively to be effective.” When fielding a question about senior center Fells, Douglass commented that “when he’s going good, there’s not too many centers like him.”
Following their victory, the Anteaters lost a tough game to the visiting Titans of Cal State Fullerton on Saturday night at the Bren Events Center. The final score was 74-66. UCI trailed by five at the half. After a slow start, UCI got a big boost from junior guard Brett Lauer off the bench with six first half points. In a game where the Anteaters never led, they continued to close the margin, but never were able to gain the lead against Cal State Fullerton. The loss was the first on-campus defeat this season for UCI.
Senior forward Patrick Sanders, who had 18 points, led in scoring. Fells had 11 points and 9 rebounds. Bland added 10 points, five rebounds and two steals. McIntosh also scored nine points in the game.
Following the game, Coach Pat Douglass said, “They were very athletic, and it seemed when they needed a bucket they were able to drive the ball.” He also mentioned that the team nonetheless must “play better defense at the guard position.”
The attendance for the game was a lively 2,285. The Anteaters now enter the Big West Conference Tournament where they are seeded fifth. They play Long Beach State this Wednesday at 6 p.m. at the Anaheim Convention Center.