Anteaters Poached by Tigers, Titans

UOP 61, UCI 50

<strong>lee Huang chen | Staff Photographer</strong><br/> Sophomore Eric Wise goes up with one hand while sophomore Adam Folker jostles for position. UCI would fall at home, 61-50, to Pacific.

lee Huang chen | Staff Photographer Sophomore Eric Wise goes up with one hand while sophomore Adam Folker jostles for position. UCI would fall at home, 61-50, to Pacific.

When guard/forward Chad DeCasas decided not to play his senior season for UC Irvine this year, the Anteaters were left without a scholarship guard taller than 6 feet 3 inches. It came back to bite Irvine on Thursday night as they fell to the University of Pacific 61-50 at the Bren Events Center.

The Tigers took advantage of a taller line-up that did not feature any clear star players, but rather had three players in double digits and a deep bench to dismantle the ’Eaters. UCI started off slow in the first half, letting Pacific shoot nearly 50 percent from the field. Sophomore walk-on guard Jonas Lalehzadeh got the start in an effort to match-up against Pacific’s taller line-up, but his energized play was muted by quick foul trouble.

“They’re a good defensive team and [in] the first half, they were physical with us,” Head Coach Pat Douglass said. “We had to start a bigger wing because we knew the size differential would be a problem. It was difficult for us to match-up. [When] we tried to put smaller guards out there to play offense we couldn’t match-up defensively.”

The ’Eaters were led by Michael Hunter and Darren Moore, who both scored 11 points. Eric Wise was hounded and double-teamed much of the game, and grew visibly frustrated at a few shots that did not go in.

Late in the game, Moore made a few nice defensive plays, including a block, and UCI managed to whittle the Pacific lead down to 7 with 1:40 remaining. However, the Anteaters were not able to convert on their shots, and 57-50 would be the closest they would get.

“We got back into the game where we had two or three possessions where if we could have made a bucket, maybe we could have gotten some momentum, but we just couldn’t seem to quite get over the hump,” Douglass said.

With a 7-1 record in the Big West, Pacific further asserted themselves as the best team in the Big West. Meanwhile, UCI’s offense, seemingly too reliant on Wise and Hunter, sputtered again.

“It’s strange, offensively sometimes we don’t go hard,” Douglass said. “We tried a lot of different things, but it just didn’t click … we were not able to move the ball with a purpose.”

CSUF 74, UCI 68

In a back and forth game that featured ten lead changes and seven ties, poor free throw shooting and a couple missed shots doomed the ’Eaters (9-13, 3-7 Big West). Wise recorded his first double-double of the season with 14 points and 13 rebounds, while Hunter added 16 points and Moore 13.

With the ’Eaters down 68-66 and 1:25 left to play, senior Zack Atkinson missed the first free throw on a one-and-one, and then Wise did the same thing with 0:42 left and UCI down 70-66. Hunter missed a three point attempt with 0:33 seconds left and Patrick Rembert followed suit with 0:27 left, and the Titans converted their free throws to seal the conference win.

“I liked our effort tonight,” Douglass said. “We played with a lot of energy but Fullerton is a good team that penetrates well.”

Orane Chin scored a career high 23 points for Fullerton, while point guard Jacques Streeter recorded a double-double with 11 points and 10 assists for CSUF (10-10, 4-4 Big West).

UCI next takes a break from conference play, traveling to Cal State Bakersfield on Wednesday and hosting the Roadrunners on Saturday at 7:35 (after the women’s game). Irvine returns to Big West action on Feb. 6, heading into the home stretch of the conference slate — hopes of a winning season on the line.