Incredible Comeback Propels UCI
UCI 91, Cal Poly 84 (OT)
Take a bow, Darren Moore, because this one will go down in the history books.
Down by eight in the final minute, the ’Eaters season was seemingly over. With a loss, UCI would have wound up in last place in the Big West, the only team not to qualify for the Big West Tournament. However, in a downright unbelievable display of heart and 3-point accuracy, UCI came back and won the game 91-84 in overtime on March 6.
Moore started the rally by getting an offensive rebound and sinking two free throws. Michael Hunter then hit a 3-pointer with 38 seconds left, followed by a 3-pointer from Eric Wise with 27 seconds left. With UCI now down four with under ten seconds left, Moore hit a three to bring the ’Eaters within one. After two made free throws by Cal Poly, Moore once again stepped up in the clutch with the biggest shot of his UCI career — a fade-away three from the left corner with .9 seconds left that sent the game into overtime.
Anteaters broadcaster Mark Roberts commented that he had never seen an ’Eater comeback like this one in all his time at UCI. Patrick Rembert scored seven of his career high 20 points in overtime, while an on-fire Moore added six more for a career-high 24 of his own. Once the ’Eaters were into overtime, it was clear they wanted it more than Cal Poly, who found out they had no chance at a first-round bye before the game. Wise added his usual 17 points and six rebounds.
UCI’s miraculous win was made more astounding by the fact that the Anteaters opened the game shooting 1 of 18 from the field, but only trailed 33-28 at halftime. Both Wise and Moore had four fouls in overtime, but neither fouled out.
“Darren had a remarkable performance down the stretch,” Head Coach Pat Douglass said. “This is a great win to get us into the tournament.”
Also of note, Hunter’s four threes in the game made him the UCI all-time leader in 3-pointers made with 234 in his career, one more than Ross Schraeder, who made 233 from 2003-2006.
Because of owning the head-to-head tiebreaker with 8th place Cal State Northridge, UCI will now re-match Cal Poly in the first round of the Big West Tournament as the 7th seed. If they can beat Cal Poly, they will most likely face Long Beach State (assuming Northridge falls to Fullerton) as the lower seed faces the higher bye seed. The ’Eaters must win four games in four days to make the NCAA Tournament. At least now, they have that chance to run another miracle.
UCSB 77, UCI 74
In the wild Big West, anyone can win on a given night. Instead of a clear cut hierarchy of team talent, each night seems to come down to how the teams match up, and how the bounces happen to fall. For example, UCI, mired at the bottom of the league, beat UC Santa Barbara by two at the Bren earlier this season. This time around, the Gauchos were able to withstand a furious ’Eater rally for a 77-74 win in Santa Barbara on March 3.
Senior Zack Atkinson started off the game with two early alley-oops, but a 10-0 run to the 7:58 mark in the first half led to a 37-28 halftime lead for the Gauchos.
Eric Wise heated up in the second half, scoring 16 of his 22 points. Walk-on Emil Kim had a career game, posting seven points, three assists, and an impressive three steals.
UCSB led by as much as 16 in the second half but a resilient UCI team pulled to 67-65 on a Michael Hunter three with 3:49 left. A big three by Darren Moore and a bucket by Wise with 28 seconds left brought UCI within one at 75-74. Gaucho star Orlando Johnson proceeded to miss both of his free throws, giving UCI a golden chance to go ahead, but Patrick Rembert missed the front end of a 1-and-1. UCSB made both free throws after the rebound, Wise missed the last chance three, and the Gauchos squeaked by the ’Eaters, clinching the first seed in the Big West Tournament.
After the crucial homecoming win over Cal State Northridge, UCI was left in a three-way tie for 7th place in a nine team league. Tiebreaker rules dictated the better versus record between UC Riverside, Cal State Northridge, and UCI make the Tournament in event of a tie.
UCR’s 76-74 loss to Long Beach State rendered the tie breakers a moot point on March 5. UCI’s win over Cal Poly made the Highlanders the odd-team out, despite the fact that UCR swept UCI. However, UCI swept the season series against Northridge, giving UCI the 7th seed and CSUN the 8th. This is important because UCI got swept by Fullerton during the regular season, making the Titans, as the 5th seed, a much more undesirable opponent.