Tough Schedule, UCI 0-3
UCI 72, WSU 80
Closeted afro wearers came to support the men’s basketball team for their first home game on Saturday evening against Weber State. After dropping their first two road games against California and San Jose State, the Anteaters lost 80-72 in a non-conference matchup against WSU. At 0-3, Irvine is still looking for their first win, but the final score against WSU did not reflect the shootout that took place throughout the game.
UC Irvine started fast when freshman Aaron Wright sank a 3-pointer in the first minute. The score remained close throughout the evening. Junior guard Derrick Flowers closed the first half with a 3-pointer and a perfect free-throw record (6-6), but the Anteaters trailed 37-32 at the break.
UCI did not recapture the lead until Flowers hit a pair of free throws with 12:03 left in the second half for a 48-46 advantage. However, with Irvine leading 59-57, Weber State broke the game wide open. WSU went on a 16-3 run to lead 73-62 with 1:48 left in the game.
Fouls highlighted the final two minutes of the game. Weber State separated from UCI by making the majority of their free throws.
“It was a team we could’ve [beaten],” junior Daman Starring said, after scoring a team-high 21 points.
Starring also had eight rebounds before fouling out late in the game.
Despite scoring 20 points in the first two games, freshman Will Davis II started on the bench. Junior Mike Wilder started as an undersized power forward, making three 3-pointers and gathering two rebounds, while Davis scored five points and totaled six rebounds after coming off the bench.
Despite Starring’s season-high point total and a number of Anteater contributions, Weber State point guard Damian Lillard took over the game with a 27 point outpouring.
“I’m not pleased that we lost the game but I’m proud of my guys, they worked hard,” Coach Russell Turner said.
Turner was critical of the team’s defensive play and he mentioned that the team’s defense is a long-term project with to work on with his young team.
UCI’s next step is preparing for the Great Alaska Shootout over Thanksgiving weekend. Last season, UCI went 2-1 as the host of its own November tournament. Travelling to Alaska this week, Irvine will face Southern Miss in the tournament opener on Thanksgiving evening, followed by games on Nov. 25 and 26.
SJSU 51, UCI 50
Prior to the home opener, UC Irvine lost a heartbreaker to San Jose State on Nov. 14 when junior center Adam Folker’s buzzer-beating tip-in was waived off by officials after video review.
Freshmen Will Davis II and Aaron Wright led the team in scoring with 12 and 14 points, respectively. Davis and Folker also stood out in the low post, collecting nine rebounds each.
The Anteaters fell behind in the opening six minutes, 16-4, but they eventually found their rhythm. Wright ended the first half with nine points as the Anteaters entered halftime trailing25-21.
The Spartans took an eight point lead with 6:27 left after knocking down a pair of free-throws, but the Anteaters made remarkable 11-2 comeback to take the lead at 48-47.
Several lead changes occurred as both teams traded baskets.
The Spartans sank a pair of free throws to give them a 50-51 advantage with seconds left. Wright dribbled down court and released an errant attempt, but Folker tipped the ball in for what the Anteaters thought was the game-winning field goal. After further review, the basket was waived off.
Overall, UCI grinded and kept themselves in the game with strong defensive play.
From beyond the arc, the Anteaters were 1-11, while sinking just 9-16 from the free throw line. It proved to be the difference in the game.