It took heart, persistence and a little bit of Eric “Eazy” Wise for the UCI men’s basketball team to earn a not so easy 96-87 double overtime victory against UC Davis last Thursday night. After missing six straight games, Wise returned to the starting lineup, hoping to resurrect the Anteaters from their recent dismal performance and improve their chances to earn a spot in the Big West Tournament.
Unable to find the basket early in the game, both teams struggled to establish any offensive rhythm. Senior guard Darren Moore, who finished the game with 22 points on 9-17 shooting, carried the Anteaters in the first half.
“It is difficult playing a team that has a similar offense to ours because both teams get run down,” Moore said. “It’s hard to find your offensive game when everyone is huffing and puffing just trying to get up and down the court.”
After struggling in the first tewnty minutes, the ’Eaters opened the second half with a sense of urgency and intensity that seemed to knock the wind out of the Aggies. Senior guard Patrick Rembert and senior forward Pavol Losonsky gave the ’Eaters a nine-point advantage, the largest lead of the game early in the half. Losonsky finished the game with a season high 20 points and nine rebounds. Despite Irvine’s efforts, they allowed the Aggies to cut the lead to four after a few defensive lapses.
UCI defended their small lead, making critical baskets just as it seemed that the momentum was shifting in Davis’ favor. With just over a minute left in the game, Davis took a three-point lead, forcing Head Coach Russell Turner to call a timeout. After Rembert could not convert on the set three-point play, Wise bailed out his team by ripping down the offensive rebound and capitalizing on both free throws, cutting the lead to one.
In desperate need of a stop, Moore came through once again for the ’Eaters, making a big-time steal and slamming home a monster two-handed jam that got the anxious Bren Events Center crowd on their feet.
On the next possession, Aggies guard Mark Payne was fouled, but only managed to convert one of his two free throws. With the game all even at 67, and 12 seconds left on the clock, the fate of the game rested in the hands of Wise. With the clock winding down, Wise shot a jumper from the left elbow that went wide left, taking the game into overtime.
Wise finally put together some offense and took control when he was needed the most. The game continued to seesaw back and forth, with both teams taking advantage of crucial positions and hitting key baskets. Yet, it was another steal and dunk by Moore and a free throw by Rembert that put the Anteaters up by three. The Aggies would again turn to Miller who hit a three-point basket at the buzzer, taking the game into a second overtime. Wise scored 12 total points in extra time, proving why his presence on the court makes a huge difference for the team.
“To have an offensive rebounding presence is huge,” Turner said. “I don’t think that Eric played all that well by his standards, but he played really well for us in terms of what he allowed us to do besides just be a small team.”
UCI 97, UOP 86 F/2OT
If Giants baseball is torture, then UCI basketball is cruel and unusual punishment.
After coming off a double overtime win two nights ago, the ’Eaters needed another double overtime performance to put the Tigers away.
By defeating Pacific on Saturday night with a final score of 97-86, UC Irvine secured a spot in the Big West Tournament, which is scheduled to start on March 10. The Anteaters dominated the first half, draining nine 3-pointers and heading into half time with a 13-point lead over the Tigers. Irvine stretched the lead to 17 early in the second half, but allowed Pacific back into the game, who managed to cut the lead to three with just over five minutes remaining.
Pacific’s Terrell Smith, who led all scorers with 23 points, tied the game with less than one minute remaining. Senior Patrick Rembert gave Irvine a three-point lead after hitting two clutch free throws with three seconds on the clock. With 1.2 seconds remaining and up by three, UCI committed the cardinal sin. The ’Eaters were (somewhat questionably) called for fouling Pacific’s Allen Huddleston behind the 3-point line. Huddleston came up clutch for Tiger, hitting his three free throws and sending the game into overtime.
In the first overtime, the story was much the same. With 30 seconds left in the first overtime, the ’Eaters found themselves up three. However, Pacific would once again come up clutch. With five second left, Huddleston tied the game when he nailed a 3-pointer.
In the second overtime, Moore started the second five-minute frame with an old fashion three-point play. The ’Eaters didn’t look back, riding that momentum and finally closing out the Tigers, 97-86.
Junior Eric Wise finished the game with another double-double, racking up 25 points and 12 rebounds. Senior guard Darren Moore contributed 21 points of his own.
The Anteaters close out the regular season on March 5 when they travel to Riverside.