Week of Close Calls
The UC Irvine men’s basketball team lost in a thrilling 88-85 ball game at the Bren Events Center on Saturday afternoon. The Anteaters (5-12, 3-2) made an incredible comeback after trailing virtually the entire contest and came up just short as sophomore guard Patrick Rembert misfired on a game-tying three-point field goal attempt as time expired.
Following a slow start that saw the Anteaters shoot 28 percent from the field in the first half, UCI put up a staggering 58 points on the scoreboard in the second half after scoring just 26 in the first half of play. The Anteaters had no answer for senior guard Vince Oliver of UC Davis (8-10, 3-2) who had team and game highs of 24 points and 10 rebounds. Freshman forward Adam Folker slowed Davis’ season scoring leader Joe Harden, a transfer from Notre Dame, in the first half but Harden finished with 16 points in the game, shooting 6-8 from the free throw line.
The one constant for the Anteaters in this game and this season has been freshman forward Eric Wise. Wise was the only viable offensive threat in the first half, as he offers a difficult matchup for anyone in the post. Following his free throw late in the game on Thursday night to put the Anteaters ahead for good against Pacific, Wise continued his consistent play with a team-high 19 points to go with seven rebounds while shooting 9-12 from the free throw line. UCI’s Patrick Rembert was great off the bench, scoring 17 points and had a game-high seven assists. Junior guard Michael Hunter and senior guard Brett Lauer each nailed four three-point shots, most of which came in the spirited second half comeback. The Anteaters were led in rebounds by senior forward Kevin Bland, who had eight rebounds in just 14 minutes of play as he was plagued by foul trouble that kept him on the sideline for the majority of the game.
After the game, Coach Pat Douglass commented on Davis’ Vince Oliver.
“He’s a good player, a tough matchup for us.”
When asked if he was impressed with his team’s heart, Coach Douglass said, “It was a good comeback, but you don’t want to be coming back at home.”
On the subject of Rembert’s play in the game, Coach Douglass said, “He was taking the ball to the basket hard.”
Rembert attributed his confidence to his success driving to the basket in the game.
“I think it definitely helped, especially because I can get the ball down to Eric when they collapse on me and getting the ball to Eric is always a good thing.”
When asked if he enjoyed playing an up-tempo style of basketball, Michael Hunter responded by stating, “I enjoy it a lot, I love playing up-tempo ball, but obviously we have to play possessions, and we need to get it inside with Eric playing well.”
The recorded attendance was 2,646 for this game, and it was aired on Fox Sports Net. Next for the Anteaters is a match-up at home on Wednesday night at the Bren Events Center against visiting Cal State Bakersfield.
UCI 52 Pacific 51
The UC Irvine men’s basketball team held on to defeat the visiting Pacific Tigers by one point with a final score of 52-51. The Anteaters went up for good when freshman forward Eric Wise hit the first free throw in a one-and-one situation late in the contest. The Anteaters received a huge boost when senior guard Brett Lauer nailed a three-pointer late in the game while being fouled. He added the free throw and completed a rare four-point play. The game was tied at 51 with 47.9 seconds remaining in the game prior to Wise’s free throw.
The Anteaters came out strong in the first half after trailing 0-2 in the opening minutes; a play by Wise sparked an 11-0 run by UCI. The defense by UCI in the first half was nothing short of amazing. They held the visiting Pacific Tigers to 13.6 percent shooting from the field, 14.3 percent shooting from three-point range and just 15 overall first half points.
The only thing that kept the Tigers alive was a perfect 8-8 from the free-throw line, which accounted for more than half of their overall point total. In the first half the great defense combined with timely shooting, with four out of six shots made from beyond the three-point arc, which put the Anteaters up by the score of 30-15 at the end of the half.
The second half was a completely different story. Pacific came out firing, led by senior forward Bryan LeDuc, who had a game-high 20 points. The Tigers clawed back into the game, putting together a 21-5 run at one point in the second half. The game saw seven lead changes and four times where the game was tied. The Tigers would not give up, but they were eventually held off by the Anteaters.
Wise led the Anteaters in scoring and netted 12 points and secured four rebounds. Junior guard Michael Hunter was perfect from the field, shooting 4-4 including 1-1 from three-point range as he added 10 points. Freshman guard Derrick Strings scored eight points, which included two timely three-point field goals. Senior forward Kevin Bland scored eight points and led the Anteaters with five rebounds. Brett Lauer added seven points, including two three-pointers. This low scoring affair only had three players with double-digit scoring nights. The balanced scoring by both teams is also another reason for this interesting statistic. In the end, the Anteaters’ incredible play in the first half proved to be too much of a mountain to climb for the visiting Tigers from Pacific.
“We knew they’d come out in the second half and really get after it,” said Head Coach Pat Douglass after the victory, “and they made some adjustments, defensively, that’s about as good a half as we’ve had here, I’m sure. In our development that was a great step forward for us, our play in the first half. I thought we held tough. It would have been easy to cave in when they came back. Brett Lauer’s three in the corner, the four-point play was a big play. Eric Wise making a free throw was a gutty performance. They are a good team. I think they are one of the top three teams in the league … Each game is going to be tough in league.”
The Anteaters play at home next week on Wednesday Jan. 21 against Cal State Bakersfield at the Bren Events Center.