Live Blog: UC Irvine vs. Illinois

UC Irvine men’s basketball opens their season against No. 13 Illinois. The highly touted Big 10 ten team has never faced UCI. The New University will provide live updates as the game goes on.

5:11 p.m: The Anteaters are down 8-5 with 15:11 on the clock after a TV timeout. Although the Anteaters look frazzled and have thrown up ill-advised shots, the team is hanging in against one of the nation’s most talented teams. Senior Derrick Strings has returned to action after suffering a leg injury in practice on Oct. 29.

5:18 p.m: Brandon Paul just hit three three-pointers in a row, putting UCI down 19-5 early. The Anteaters have got to work on their ball possession, as they are committing too many turnovers early on. The Fighting Illini are clearly taller and more athletic than our Anteaters.

5:22 p.m: Paul is killing the Anteaters, going up for an athletic block on Daman Starring.

5:27 p.m: Darren Moore commits his third foul, giving the Fighting Illini a shot at a four point play. Illinois is focusing their attention on Eric Wise down low. The Anteaters need their role players to step up in order to alleviate Wise’s double-teams.

5:34 p.m: The Anteaters have already committed 8 turnovers, and are down 29-8. Paul has hit two more three-pointers, and has now outscored Irvine 15-8 on his own.

5:40 p.m: Pavol Losonsky draws a foul on 7’1″ Mike Tisdale. Let’s go Anteaters.

5:44 p.m: A weary looking Eric Wise with his second offensive rebound.

5:46 p.m: After an Illini player pelts Patrick Rembert in the face with the ball while going out of bounds, Losonsky nearly comes down with a fastbreak dunk. Almost.

5:51 p.m: Irvine enters half-time down 42-18. Nobody said the transition would be easy for Coach Russell Turner. The offense is struggling to make things happen, but Losonsky seems unfazed by the atmosphere. He’s 2-5 from the field with seven points, and has made both of his free throw attempts. With the stadium covered in Fighting Illini orange, the Anteaters have been outmatched in the first half. Wise has been working on his conditioning, but bodying up against Illinois’ formidable big men has been a tall task. Look for UCI to take advantage of their breather and attempt to cut down on the 24 point deficit in the second half.

6:10 p.m: Losonsky and the Anteaters look good coming out in the second half, with eight straight points. Losonsky hits a couple of shots and Moore connects on a four point play. Now Starring redeems an air ball (that the students are still chanting) with a three point play the old fashioned way. Losonsky drawing praise from Dickey Simpkins, the color commentator.

6:13 p.m: Good effort and defense by Starring on a Demetri McCamey fastbreak. Whatever Turner said in the locker room, it seems to be working for now.

6:16 p.m: Moore hits a big three to bring UCI within 15!

6:20 p.m: Does anyone else think that Simpkins is a little biased with his high school watching of certain Illinois players?

6:22 p.m: Emil Kim playing his heart out down low right now.

6:23 p.m: Peter Simek has been exposed since checking in for Losonsky. It’s time for Pavol to check back in. 59-39 Illinois with 11:07 left.

6:29 p.m: The Anteaters, with 43 points, have now passed their total against Texas last year. Wise now has double digit rebounds as UCI is keeping it somewhat respectable.

6:35 p.m: Illinois getting lazy with the passes, as Darren Moore comes away with a steal and is fouled by Jereme Richmond. Irvine getting some props from Simpkins, who says that UCI is “developing an identity of playing the passing lanes.”

6:41 p.m: UCI drawing the dismay of Bruce Weber after Patrick Rembert draws a blocking foul on Brandon Paul.

6:43 p.m: Despite Brandon Paul’s sixth three point basket, UCI is doing a decent job of competing against the Illini. Trailing by 17, the team looks much more composed on the court.

6:48 p.m: McCamey pulls a killer layup, beating Chris McNealy badly. UCI trying to keep the game within 20 as Turner calls a timeout.

6:53 p.m: Illinois crowd chanting “Spider-man” for Moore? Impressive.

6:54 p.m: After the brother of Luther Head hits a bucket, McNealy answers with a nice three pointer. After that, Wise hits a running layup to ensure a double-double on the night. Moore still hustling down to the last seconds, making a steal and three-point play to cut thte lead to 14. UCI has now scored an impressive 47 points in the second half!

6:56 p.m: As Bruce Weber shakes Simek’s hand, UCI can walk away with their heads held up high. A 79-65 Illinois win is a huge improvement on last year’s 47 point loss to Texas.

For Turner’s squad, this game must have been a confidence booster. After losing a disappointing game to Concordia University, the team looked overwhelmed against the Illini in the first half. Irvine bounced back in the second half, scoring 47 points and outscoring the Illini by ten points. It’s something to build on as the team travels to Los Angeles to take on the USC Trojans on Saturday. If they learn to start fast and not just be a second half team, the Trojans could be in for quite a scare. Wise failed to produce twenty points for the first time this year, but still managed a double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds. The Anteaters made 5 of 12 from beyond the arc in the second half (41.7%), and reduced their turnover total to 3 in the final twenty minutes. Moore led the charge, scoring 15 points, swiping three steals and securing two rebounds in the second half comeback. Facing a team with realistic potential NBA talent, the ‘Eaters performed admirably. If the team we saw in the second half shows up in Big West action this year, the Antourage is up for a treat.