Game of the Century

Phuc Pham | New University

If Saturday’s exhibition game is any indication, we are in for a fun season.

The UC Irvine men’s basketball team kicked off the 2012 season with a bang, erupting for 101 points in their first game at the Bren Events Center as they took down the Vanguard Lions, 101-92. Led by the play of big men, John Ryan and Adam Folker, the Anteaters controlled the entire first half and took a 45-29 lead into the locker room. A late run by Vanguard in the second half made the game too close for comfort for Coach Russell Turner, but ultimately, the Anteaters were able to put the Lions away with their scrappy defense.

“Going into the second half, we sort of let up,” says sophomore center Ryan. “We definitely have to clamp down on that. Luckily our offense was on, but for sure we’re going to have to work on our defense more.”

Ryan, who was a red shirt for the ‘Eaters last year, saw his first action on the court since transferring from Fresno State. Ryan dominated the Lions interior and did a really nice job running the floor — something that Coach Turner praised. Ryan finished the night with a near double-double, posting 14 points and nine rebounds in 13 minutes of action.

“It felt good. It’s good to be back. After a year of sitting out it’s tough, but [I] got back into the groove of it in the off-season. There’s always room for improvement, we just have to keep working at it.”

The ‘Eaters had plenty of offense to keep a commanding lead for the majority of the game. Five Anteaters scored in double figures, including Ryan and Folker, senior guard Derrick Flowers, junior guard Chris McNealy and newcomer and seven-foot freshman, Connor Clifford.

Clifford’s first points of his UCI career came at the 11:19 minute mark in the first half after fellow big man, sophomore Will Davis II, found him open underneath the basket for an emphatic dunk. Clifford, who is normally shy and soft-spoken, showed as much emotion as you will probably ever see from him. He finished the game with 11 points and five rebounds off the bench — a solid effort for his first collegiate game.

“I’m not really a jumper like Will, so I don’t get as many slams as him. When I get them, I love them,” Clifford jokingly admitted.

Another freshman that made an impact in his Anteater debut was freshman guard Alex Young. Coach Turner called on Young as the first guard off the bench with 30 seconds left in the first half. The freshman guard came in with intensity on both sides of the ball, aggressively pursuing the ball and setting up his teammates on offense. Young finished the game as the team leader in assists with six to go along with nine points and five boards.

“I felt like I played alright, I made a few mistakes because I felt like I got tired,” Young admitted.

“Coach wants us to pressure the ball handler. My job is to lock down the point guard and take the flow out of the offense. On offense, my job is to create opportunities for my teammates and I just try to stay aggressive.”

Although they were able to dominate the majority of the game, there are a lot of things that the team can build on before heading into conference play.

The ‘Eaters will take the floor again on Saturday, Nov. 10, at 7 p.m. when they take on the University of Nevada, Reno Wolfpack.