Folker Scores at Davis’ Block Party
Fan appreciation night at the Bren Events Center could not have ended better as the UC Irvine men’s basketball team made a comeback against Cal State Northridge in a 94-85 overtime victory on Feb. 25.
The Anteaters worked their way back from a 54-47 halftime deficit. In a career night, junior center Adam Folker tipped in the game-tying bucket with 4.1 seconds remaining in regulation, capping off a 13-4 run that knotted the score at 83 apiece. Irvine went on to dominate in the extra period with an 11-2 run, led by seven from Folker, putting the Matadors away. UCI is currently 6-8 in the Big West Conference and 11-17 overall.
In the final home game of the season, the big men dominated. Folker scored a career-high 28 points and grabbed nine rebounds in just 27 minutes of action.
“I [have] incredible confidence in Adam Folker because of how hard he’s worked to get himself healthy, [and] how important the game is to him,” head coach Russell Turner said. “I didn’t play him that much in the first half because we got two fouls and I wanted to make sure we had him down the stretch, because he’s been the most vital guy this year on the defensive end.”
On Saturday night though, Folker was the offensive spark, while freshman Will Davis II protected the basket by setting the school record with eight blocks in a game.
Sophomore Chris McNealy also boasted a career-high, scoring 21 points and going four of five from beyond the arc. Junior Michael Wilder was the only player in the game who recorded a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds.
The Anteaters started off hot in the first half by going on a 13-4 run in the opening three minutes; Folker scored five points in that run and swiped a steal that led to a Wilder 3-pointer.
The Canadian center ran into foul trouble early in the game after committing two with more than 16 minutes left in the first half. Folker was subbed out a minute after he committed his second foul and from that point the interior defense crumbled. Both Davis II and freshman Mike Best struggled defensively on the floor, committing two fouls each that gave the Matadors multiple free-throw opportunities.
After UCI held a 17-10 lead with less than 15 minutes in the half, CSUN went on an 11-3 run to lead 22-21. Despite Folker’s return with more than 11 minutes on the clock, UCI’s offense failed to get going.
Poor decision-making and sloppy ball movement hindered UCI’s offense as they committed 12 turnovers in the first half. The Matadors took advantage of the Anteaters’ poor ball protection, converting 18 points off of turnovers.
They also seized easy scoring opportunities in the paint as they exposed UCI’s double teams, leading to open layups and easy put-backs. The Matadors scored 22 points within the key and led 54-47 after scoring a pair of 3-pointers to end the half.
Irvine tightened up their mistakes in the second half and managed to amend their mistakes from the prior period. With more than six minutes left in the game, the Anteaters pulled off a gritty 11-2 run while down 79-70 within five minutes to tie the ball game at 81 apiece.
With 13 seconds left, CSUN’s center Stephen Maxwell scored a put-back to take the lead. But Folker tied the game with four seconds remaining, sinking a reverse lay-up after recovering his missed shot. CSUN almost stole the game in the final second. Maxwell narrowly tipped-in an inbound pass as time expired.
Folker put on a scoring clinic with seven points in overtime. He also added some emphasis, throwing down his first career one-handed (right-handed) dunk. Davis II solidified the defense, rejecting three blocks in overtime. The Matadors’ offense and defense wilted as UCI went on an 11-2 run in the emotional overtime victory.
“Our team has resilience. We’ve won some close games by raising our defensive level in the end,” Turner said. “We were much better in the second half. I give credit to my captains Daman, Mike, and Adam. I push those guys to be good and they were good tonight in terms of raising our level of play as a team.”
Folker was thrilled about his career night, but admitted that his teammates were the cause of his breakout game.
“It feels great. We needed that win,” Folker said. “Our point guards did a great job. Our guards found me when I was open, they were making good passes, and they were hitting shots, and that really opened the paint for me.” Irvine takes to the road to face Long Beach State on Feb. 29 and UC Riverside on March 3 to close out the regular season.