College hoops officially tipped off with regular season openers last week. Along with the Anteaters’ season opener, No. 1 North Carolina and Michigan State opened their seasons in San Diego at the first-ever Carrier Classic. The game was played atop the flight deck of the USS Carl Vinson. North Carolina defeated the Spartans 67-55 on Nov. 11 in San Diego. Fun fact: The Carl Vinson conducted Osama bin Laden’s burial at sea.
Last week I predicted that UC Irvine’s men’s basketball team would fall 76-59 to No. 24 Cal in the Bay Area season opener. Irvine lost 77-56 at Berkeley, so I was way off.
C – Mike Best – 4 points, 0 rebounds, and 1 assist in 11 minutes of action.
PF – Will Davis II – 8 points, 9 rebounds, and 1 block in 29 minutes.
SF – Mike Wilder – 6 points, 2 rebounds in 27 minutes.
SG – Chris McNealy – 14 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 assists in 30 minutes.
PG – Daman Starring – 5 points, 2 rebounds, and 3 assists in 27 minutes.
For UC Irvine, it was a tale of two halves. They entered halftime trailing 48-23 and outscored the Golden Bears 33-29 in the second half, after Cal had taken the foot off the gas. In the first half, UCI was out of its element. With such a youthful squad, facing defensive pressure makes even dribbling down court a nerve-racking experience, especially against a well-coached team like Cal.
Davis and McNealy stepped up, while Starring, Wilder and Best disappeared against tough Pac-12 defenders.
Wilder and Starring combined for just 11 points and four rebounds. In comparison, Darren Moore and Patrick Rembert — the two Anteater leaders at guard last season — combined for 30 points and nine rebounds against No. 13 Illinois last season. Starring and Wilder must provide offensive leadership in big games or risk losing minutes to Woods and Wright.
McNealy has begun to emerge as an offensive threat at shooting guard. As a freshman, he came off the bench behind Moore all last season. In three games (including exhibitions), McNealy has averaged 9.3 points and 5.3 rebounds. He entered halftime with six points.
Davis started the game strong, grabbing four rebounds and scoring two points in the first nine minutes. At the half, Davis had four points and six rebounds in the first 20 minutes. Against an established top-25 team, he held his own. With experience, he’ll be dominating Big West big men by his sophomore year.
Position issues: The Golden Bears did more than double up the Anteaters in points in the first half. Operation “Mike Best Starts at Center” has not been working out for the Anteaters. The freshman is several dumbbell curls and a year’s worth of Chipotle burritos away from being a big man. At 6 foot 10 and 200 pounds, he has the height and the ball skills for the position, but in the first five minutes against Cal, Best once again found himself in foul trouble, with three personals. He played just 11 minutes, contributing four points and zero rebounds.
Adam Folker looks like he’s about ready to start. The 6-foot-9 Canadian center might need to ease his way into playing 30 minutes per game after seeing just 13 minutes against Cal, but his rebounding presence and efficiency in the paint will be keys to the team’s progression.
Another option down low is freshman forward Marcus Bradley. Bradley scored six points and crashed two boards in 10 minutes against Cal. Although he’s too small to be a center, he and Davis would make an agile tandem down low, and if combined with Starring, Wilder and McNealy, it would make for an athletic starting five.
Nickname update: New University staff writer Diego Escutia has suggested that Travis Souza’s nickname should be, “Souuuuuuuuz,” much like the Boston Red Sox bellow, “Youuuuuuk” for Kevin Youkilis, or like how Los Angeles Lakers fans shout, “You suck!” at Luke Walton. The verdict is still out on nicknames for Mike Best, Collin Woods, Chris McNealy and Marcus Bradley, so make sure to submit your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org this week.
Oregon player of the year commits to UCI: Alex Young, the 2011 Oregon 4A Player of the Year, signed a national letter of intent with UCI last week. The 6-foot-1 point guard averaged 20.4 points, 8.4 rebounds and 5.0 assists as a junior last year, leading Phoenix High School to its first state championship in 60 years.
Next season should be interesting, to say the least. Woods, Wright, Starring and Flowers are currently competing for minutes at the point, so add Young into that equation next season. Coach Russell Turner’s recruits continue to challenge players to earn a spot on the starting five — a recipe for success.
Saturday night, live at the Bren: The Bren Events Center has a brand new spanking scoreboard, equipped with an HD video screen. Hopefully they think about including a Kiss Cam one of these days, so pucker up Antourage. UCI will debut the scoreboard against Weber State on Saturday, Nov. 19 at 4:30 p.m.
In addition, this year’s Antourage shirts will be given out to those who present student identification. To the freshmen and anyone who has decided to take advantage of the system by snagging a T-shirt and leaving in the past: I challenge you to stay for the entire first half. The sports marketing department hasn’t thought to hand out promotions at the end of the game to ensure higher attendance during “Crunch time,” but the athletic team in blue and gold this season is worth watching.
I challenge you to stick around for a bit after receiving a T-shirt on Saturday evening. Check out the new state-of-the-art scoreboard, watch a high energy UCI squad, and appreciate the Anteater Band. The band shows up to every home game, rags on opponents, distracts the opposition during free throw attempts, and chants “zot, zot, zot!” after each free throw that UCI makes.
Don’t be afraid to raise your voice louder than a whisper, it’s not church or a funeral, your loud is allowed. Give the referees shit if they’re calling a crappy game, and don’t just bolt when you grab your Antourage shirt. Wearing an Antourage shirt around campus without attending UCI athletic events on a regular basis is almost as pathetic as a 72-day marriage. Am I right, Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries?
The Weber State University Wildcats are from Ogden, Utah. They wear purple and white, and play in the Big Sky Conference. Although the Wildcats aren’t mainstream, they shouldn’t be taken lightly. Weber State finished 18-14 last season, losing by one point to Arizona State, by nine points to Oregon, and by six points against BYU — so they held Jimmer Fredette, Brandon Davies and company to 72 points … not bad.
In their first regular season game on Nov. 11, Weber State had their largest win ever in a 109-50 shellacking of Northern New Mexico. They also set a school record with 17 three-pointers. Keep in mind: it was against Northern New Mexico.
If Turner starts Folker and lets him play 20 minutes, rather than handing the Wildcats six foul shots and Mike Best a cup of water after committing his third foul five minutes into the game, UCI might have a shot.
Prediction: WSU 79, UCI 82