Basketball Experiences Growing Pains

UCR 73 UCI 68

UCI men’s basketball opened its Big West Conference schedule on Tuesday night, suffering a devastating loss at the hands of UC Riverside, 73-68 in the Bren Events Center.

“It’s a frustrating thing [to lose], we’ve got to be better than that and we didn’t play well enough to win,” Head Coach Russell Turner said. “That’s going to happen sometimes because [these players] are not going to play well every night, but I need to know that when things are not going well for us, we’re still going to have the spirit and enthusiasm.”

The Anteaters began the first half with energy and determination, which led to UCI’s junior Eric Wise’s first basket 30 seconds into the game. As the first half progressed, the ’Eaters maintained control. UCI went into halftime with a 38-31 lead.

At the break, senior Darren Moore and sophomore Daman Starring led the team with nine points apiece, while sophomore Mike Wilder added another eight. However, the Highlanders out-rebounded the ’Eaters in both offensive and defensive rebounds.

“We gave up a lot of offensive rebounds that were crucial for us late in the game which led up to the score being what it was,” Daman Starring said. “We just got to play hard, play smart and keep playing as a team and it will all follow through.”

Although UCR trailed UCI in the first half, they came out strong in the second half. The Highlanders hit shot after shot and UCI failed to hold off UCR’s momentum. The ’Eaters attempted to make plays and shots on the court but could not keep up with UCR’s scoring rate.
The Highlanders and leading scorer Javon Borum made enough free throws to hold off UCI in the end, earning the hard-fought victory. Starring led the team with 19 points. Moore finished with 13, Wilder added 11 and Patrick Rembert chipped in with nine. Borum led UCR with a career-high 30 points.

“[UCR] basically wanted [to win] more than we did. We had a chance to make stops and make plays late in the game, but we just didn’t,” Starring said. “We played hard the first half and a little bit in the second half but when it came down to it, we just didn’t make those stops and plays.”

LMU 87 UCI 80

Eric Wise returned to his normal self on Dec. 30 with 23 points and six rebounds.
Unfortunately for the rest of the ’Eaters, it was much of the same as Loyola Marymount beat UC Irvine 87-80 to extend the Anteater’s losing streak to four.

“I feel like my team treated the UCLA game as a win, and that’s disappointing,” Head Coach Russell Turner said. “For two games now, we’ve played beneath my competitive standards, and I’ve got to change that.”

After the two teams traded baskets for much of the first half, the Lions went on a 10-2 run in the last three minutes of the half to go up 42-34 at the half. The Lions kept the momentum going in the second half, with Drew Viney drilling a three-pointer with 14:16 remaining to give Loyola Marymount a 19-point lead. Viney led LMU with 22 points and 10 rebounds, killing the Anteaters for the second straight year.

After a UCI timeout, Turner put in a group of five bench players, who started chipping away at the lead.

“We did a nice job fighting back in the game, [but] I think it’s typical when a team gets a big lead on you that they let up, so I don’t want to congratulate ourselves too much for a comeback,” Turner said. “But I was pleased that the guys I put in off the bench competed at a high level.”

A three-pointer from Mike Wilder on an assist from Darren Moore cut the Lions’ lead to four, 68-64, with just under five minutes to play. A quiet crowd of 1,306 people comprised mostly of neighborhood families made their loudest attempt to spur UCI on, but LMU closed the door with Vernon Teel scoring eight points, capping off a 20-point night. The ’Eaters began fouling with about 55 seconds left, down six, but the extra long minute failed to result in UCI getting any closer to victory.

“This team has a funny personality,” Turner said. “It’s been particularly interesting for me to watch the personality of this team as we’ve reintroduced Eric, and that’s not Eric’s fault. I’ve got a strange mix of things going on, and I’m not quite sure what it is, but we’ve got to get to where we’re playing better.”

After the game, a grim Turner called out team defense as the area that needed the most improvement. Darren Moore was the lone standout on Thursday, adding four steals to his 21-point night. LMU shot 56 percent overall from the field, and an unacceptable 65 percent in the second half. LMU also out-rebounded UCI 37-28 on the night.

“I feel like we made a better effort in general towards offensive rebounds, but my team doesn’t block out well, and we don’t rebound well,” Turner said. “What I need is every guy to be better in other areas on nights when their shot aren’t falling. One of the characteristics of my team right now is when their shots aren’t falling we don’t seem to do other things well either.”

UCI now looks to get back on the right track against Cal State Fullerton on Jan. 5.