UCI 78, EWU 73
Despite shooting 12-25 at the free-throw line, UC Irvine’s men’s basketball team eked out a five-point victory at home in a non-conference Sears BracketBusters matchup against Eastern Washington University on Feb. 19.
The win moved the Anteaters into double digits, standing at 10-17 with three conference games remaining. Irvine’s home finale is Saturday against Cal State Northridge at 7:30 p.m.
Five Anteaters scored in double-figures. Junior guard Chris McNealy led the way with 15, Daman Starring and Mike Wilder had 13 apiece, freshman Mike Best had 12 off the bench, and junior center Adam Folker scored 11 points.
Folker struggled from the line, though, making just one of seven of his throws.
The Anteaters trailed by two (44-42) at the half, nailing 17 of 29 buckets and just 3-12 free throws in the opening 20. But in the second half, Irvine slowed the pace, converting 12 of 18 from the field and nine of 13 free-throw attempts.
In a team effort, the Anteaters grabbed rebounds across the board. Folker and Starring had seven rebounds, while freshman Will Davis II and Best skied for six boards of their own.
With just 2:36 remaining, Wilder drained a three from the corner to put the ’Eaters up 74-72, answering back after EWU had gone on a 13-3 run late in the game. Wilder and McNealy later iced the game with free throws, snapping the team’s four-game losing skid.
UCI 62, UCSB 85
Prior to the BracketBusters win against Eastern Washington, the Anteaters dropped their fourth consecutive game on Feb. 15 to the UCSB Gauchos in a blowout. The loss moved Irvine to 5-8 in the Big West. UCI and UCR are tied for sixth in conference, but the Highlanders hold a better overall record at 12-15.
The ’Eaters found themselves down big early. After Irvine lead the game 5-2, UCSB went on a 20-5 run to push the lead to 22-10. Irvine would trail by as many as 20 points in the first half, ultimately cutting the lead to 15 points heading into the locker room with a 44-29 deficit. Santa Barbara sealed the game within the first few minutes of the second half, storming out of the break with a 10-0 run and pushing the lead to 54-29.
The Gauchos extended their lead by as much as 31 points and the Anteaters couldn’t respond.
Starring led UCI scorers with 12 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Davis also added 12 points, while Folker contributed 10 points and 7 rebounds in the losing effort.
The Anteaters’ efforts were disappointing. Santa Barbara shot 53.6 percent overall and 55.0 percent from 3-point range. Irvine was unable to contain UCSB’s Orlando Johnson, who dropped 25 points and brought in 10 rebounds.
For the second straight game at home, the ’Eaters struggled from downtown, shooting just 6 for 21.
UCI 72, UCSB 65
Senior guard Kassandra McCalister poured in a career-high 36 points in her final game at the Bren Events Center against the UCSB Gauchos on Feb. 18.
The win completes a season sweep of the Gauchos for the first time since the 1987-88 season.
At 12-15 overall, and 8-6 in conference, UC Irvine’s women’s basketball team stands in fourth place in the Big West. Just 2.5 games separate UCI from the first place Cal State Northridge Matadors with two road games remaining at Cal State Fullerton on Feb. 25 and at UC Riverside on March 1.
McCalister had a night to remember in what could have been her home court sendoff, hitting 15 of her 16 free-throw attempts, 5 of 10 from beyond the arc, and tallying five rebounds, five assists and three steals.
Irvine entered the half with a 39-32 lead and kept the seven-point advantage intact when the final horn sounded.
UCI was able to get to the free-throw line early and often, fielding 26 attempts in the game, compared to UCSB’s 11. They won the turnover battle with 15 to the Gauchos’ 18, and made 12 3-pointers to Santa Barbara’s six.
UCI 63, Cal Poly 76
After bringing in the New Year with a 5-0 start, the women’s basketball team lost their fifth of seven after being crushed by Cal Poly at home on Feb. 16.
The Anteaters played a competitive first half, trailing the Mustangs by just three. Cal Poly would break the game open in the second half, however, with a 13-0 run over the first five minutes. Irvine chipped into the lead, closing the margin to 10 at one point, but the Mustangs pulled away.
Anete Klintsone led the ’Eaters with 13 points. McCalister and Cheyenne Cathey each contributed 11 points.
Irvine was no match for Cal Poly. In their prior meeting, Irvine was able to steal a close two-point victory, but Poly finished Thursday’s night’s game shooting 44 percent from the field and connected on 50 percent from long range, a big improvement from the prior meeting where they shot 26 percent from beyond the arc.
Irvine killed themselves with careless turnovers; they turned the ball over 17 times that led to 21 Cal Poly points.
Irvine has a chance to host a Big West Tournament game if they can finish in the top four in the Big West standings. Standing in their way is Fullerton on Saturday afternoon.