Antourage Insider: Tale of Two Halves
The Anteaters were one half of basketball away from having a spectacular week of Big West play — less than 10 minutes away from sweeping Cal State Fullerton and Long Beach State. Even though the 49ers didn’t cooperate, UC Irvine can take away some positives to build on for the second half of their season.
The ’Eaters returned to their swarming defense and turnover-creating ways against the Titans. UCI forced a whopping 24 Titan turnovers, including nine from star Orane Chin alone. UCI recorded a season-high 15 steals, and 87 in their last 10 games compared to 47 from their opponents. UCI also did a good job of getting CSUF point guard Perry Webster in foul trouble, limiting the floor general to a mere two points and three assists.
UCI caught a big break when Andre Hardy missed the game due to being suspended for an earlier technical foul, but it’s about time the ’Eaters caught a break in the team-not-at-full-strength department. Pavol Losonsky missed the game because of an upper-respiratory ailment, leaving UCI with just two healthy big men out of their potential full complement of five. So even with CSUF missing their best big man, UCI was still severely undersized.
Not to beat a dead horse, but getting centers Adam Folker and Maxime Chupin on the court would be a huge boon to this team. Head Coach Russell Turner is tired of answering the question of when the tandem will play, but the size would help UCI in a big way. Folker, whose hand injury is healed, estimates being out a few more weeks due to his Achilles injury.
Derrick Strings and Jonas Lalehzadeh were unable to go against Long Beach as well. Pressing teams need a lot of guys to run the floor, and UCI only having nine guys was a likely reason for their decline at the end of the game. UCI went from shooting 61.5 percent in the first half to 30.6 percent in the second half. After making 20 of their first 32 shots, they only made seven of their last 30. Coaches and players have made a habit to not make excuses, which is good, but it’s hard not to wish for UCI to be at full potential.
NCAA committee, please stop slacking on the Chupin ruling. Not only is it not fair for fans who are left in the dark, it is much worse for Maxime who is not even allowed to practice with the team right now. To no fault of his own, Maxime has come all the way from France to be an observer for five months. It must be hard to bear. To Maxime’s credit, he has been one of the most supportive guys on the bench this season, despite his tough situation.
Around the Big West: Cal Poly surprises, UC Davis tipped over twice. The unpredictability continued on Jan. 6, as Cal Poly upset Pacific in Stockton in a real barnburner, 43-39. UC Santa Barbara beat UCD 77-65 in Davis on the same night. The Mustangs strengthened their bid for league dark horse by beating UCD 48-43. Pacific righted their ship by beating UC Santa Barbara 57-54, while CSUF salvaged their week by taking down UC Riverside 83-77 in overtime (the same Highlanders who beat UCI the previous week).
Next up, UCI travels up the coast to take on Cal Poly and UCSB on the road. From here on out, every week will be important for UCI. It will be interesting to see how UCI’s league-leading scoring offense reacts to Cal Poly’s slow it down, stifling defense.
Cal Poly gave up a combined 82 points in their last two games, while UCI gave up 86 to Long Beach State alone. Pacific is another defensive team which has had trouble scoring consistently. The Tigers have been upset by both CSUF and Cal Poly, but is coming off a win against preseason favorites UCSB. Hopefully UCI can come away with at least one win again this week with four — instead of three — good halves not out of the question.