Weakness Exposed at Homestead
UOP 72, UCI 64
Poor shooting, fouls and lack of execution were the causes of the Anteaters’ loss, as the UC Irvine men’s basketball team lost to the University of Pacific 72-64 on Feb. 4 at home. The loss puts them 5-5 in the Big West and 9-13 overall this season.
The team chucked a ludicrous 35 3-point shots out of the 57 shots they attempt. Only six of the attempts from beyond the arc went in. The Anteaters struggled to execute offensive plays to penetrate the Tigers’ zone defense, and they were forced into long jumpers to beat the shot clock.
Freshman Will Davis II had a decent game, going five for five from the paint to finish the night with 10 points, six rebounds, and two blocks. Junior Adam Folker had similar numbers, going five for six from the court to end the game with 11 points and six rebounds. Unfortunately, Folker’s woes from the charity stripe were at its worst as he made only 1 for 6 from the free-throw line.
The first half turned out to be a game of keep-up as Pacific built a steady lead in the first four minutes. UCI looked sure to catch up, but they only managed to close the deficit to four at best. Irvine proved to be effective in the interior as Davis made all of his shots in the first half, while Folker made four of five. However, the Anteaters failed to do much damage from the perimeter as junior Mike Wilder made two 3-pointers out of the 15 the team attempted. The Tigers led 36-28 at the end of the half.
The Tigers seemingly took advantage of UCI’s foul troubles from the first half by putting in two big men to give Irvine trouble. Pacific managed to expose Irvine’s defense by finding an open man whenever the ’Eaters executed the double team. UCI failed to find their big men as Adam Folker only saw one look at the basket while Davis sat out most of the half due to foul trouble.
The ’Eaters were constantly down by nine points until 9:46 left in the half when freshman Travis Souza made a rare 3-pointer to narrow the deficit to 56-50. Junior Daman Starring followed up with a pair of free throws. After the Tigers made a 3-pointer of their own, Folker responded with a layup with his only shot in the second half, followed by a 3-pointer from junior Derick Flowers thanks to an offensive rebound to put Irvine two points away from tying the game. Unfortunately, that was as close UCI would get as Pacific scored a jumper and a 3-pointer to increase their lead.
Head coach Russell Turner was surprised by the result.
“When I look at the stat sheet, I’m amazed we shot 35 threes out of 57 shots. Our position was to get the ball to the interior, but clearly give Pacific credit,” Turner said. “They’ve been active in the zone. It’s made their team better and we didn’t make enough plays to beat it.”
UCI 68, UCD 61
The UC Irvine men’s basketball team battled to a gritty 68-61 victory over UC Davis on Thursday night at the Bren Events Center. Although the Anteaters lost to the Aggies in rebounds (43-34), they were able to come away with the win due to Davis’ inability to protect the ball. The Aggies gave up 23 points because of their turnovers. Coach Turner was pleased with the team’s performance to edge out a victory in a not-so-easy victory.
“I like to view this year at the end to see if we keep getting better,” Turner said. “That’s our challenge. It’s nice to know that every guy that we have will be back next year.”
Sophomore Chris McNealy had a solid performance, putting up 16 points while shooting three for four from the 3-point line and nabbing six rebounds. Junior Damon Starring not only scored 13 points and dished out six assists, but he also put up a solid defensive effort with four steals. Big man junior Adam Folker was two rebounds away from a double-double as he came away with 11 points and eight rebounds.
The Anteaters jumped to a hot start in the first half going on a 16-4 run after trailing 5-0. UCI would keep the seven-point lead until 4:52 left in the half when the Aggies’ offense found the basket consistently to narrow their deficit by one. Fortunately, a free-throw by freshman Will Davis II and a 3-pointer by freshman Travis Souza would put the Anteaters’ back up by five at 30-25. They led by four at the half.
The beginning of the second half was a nightmare for the Anteaters’ offense as they missed several good looks at the basket. Davis managed to tie the game three and a half minutes into the half after hitting a 3-pointer to make it 36 apiece.
With the game tied at 38, head coach Russell Turner called a timeout to restore the team’s focus. Irvine finally began scoring more than they missed as the offense grew more composed and answered back whenever Davis scored. The two teams battled back and forth between multiple lead changes, but UCI pulled away with 2:58 left after Souza and McNealy hit their shots beyond the arc to give UCI a six-point lead.
“The win gave us a lot of momentum. Just hopefully we keep moving,” McNealy said.