Setting New Standards

DEFEND: Will Davis II breaks his own single season school record for blocks; UCI beats UCR and Fullerton.

CSF 66, UCI 86

There was never a doubt. The UC Irvine men’s basketball team cruised to their eighth conference victory on Saturday evening at the Bren, defeating Big West foe Cal State Fullerton 86-66. UCI led by 31 points at one point, sweeping Fullerton in the season series.

At 14-13, the Anteaters surpassed their highest win total in Coach Russell Turner’s three-year career after winning 13 and 12 games in his first two seasons.

En route to victory, sophomore forward Will Davis II recorded five blocks. With 59 rejections this season, Davis has broken the UCI school record (55 blocks) that he set as a freshman last year, with at least six games remaining on schedule.

“Will Davis was a tremendous defensive factor for us, dominating above the rim as a shot-blocker and in changing shots,” Coach Turner said.

Davis also added 10 points and 11 rebounds, including seven on the offensive glass.

After Fullerton took a 4-2 lead, UCI knotted the game up with a layup from senior center Adam Folker. Irvine never let up, leading for the remaining 37:21 of the 40-minute game.

Folker was locked in all evening, working his way around defenders with ease. The senior called for the ball with regularity, banking nine of 10 attempts off and in the glass. He finished with 18 points and five rebounds.

With time winding down in the first half, senior shooting guard Daman Starring spotted up just after crossing the half-court line, throwing up an attempt from about 35 feet out. The ball ricocheted off the backboard, off the front of the iron and back off the glass before sliding through the net. Starring’s third 3-pointer of the first half gave UCI a 38-24 lead and more momentum entering the break.

In the second half, Starring picked up where he left off, adding four more treys and ending with 21 points, seven rebounds and five assists.

From 12:08 remaining in the second half to 3:58, the Anteaters went on a 30-11 run, extending their lead from 54-42 to 84-53. The Anteaters would coast to victory with reserves on the floor, ending the second half with a 62 percent shooting percentage, including 58 percent from beyond the arc.

Despite 16 turnovers that led to 24 points for Fullerton, UCI still managed a 20-point victory to improve to 10-1 at home.

Freshman point guard Alex Young facilitated the ball efficiently throughout the evening, contributing seven assists and zero turnovers, and was effective driving to the basket and hitting lobbed layups. Young scored 16 points on 6-9 shooting.

Irvine held the assists advantage 26 to 12 and outrebounded Fullerton 40 to 33 for their fourth win in six games.

UCR 48, UCI 52

UCI defeated UCR 52-48 on Feb. 13 at the Bren.

Senior Daman Starring got things started for the ’Eaters, hitting a three-pointer within the first few minutes of the game. He was followed by freshman Alex Young, who scored an easy lay-up in transition. UCR was held scoreless for the first three minutes of play.

Senior Michael Wilder carried UCI, scoring a game-high 17 points with eight rebounds.

“I felt great,” Wilder said. “I’ve been working hard all week, all season just to get my shot, get my rhythm and tonight my teammates found me. I’ve made the outside shot a staple of my game, but Riverside was playing a zone the majority of the game so there were wide open lanes to cut.”

Irvine led 8-2 within the first five minutes of play and maintained the lead until the final buzzer. Riverside’s zone translated into a total of 16 Irvine points in the paint. At halftime, UCI had a comfortable 26-14 lead over the Highlanders.

“We’ve been consistently good at taking care of the ball; that’s what I expect from our team,” Head Coach Russell Turner said. “I’ve got good ball-handlers and I’ve got good passers and that’s what makes this team fun to coach and hopefully fun to watch.”

The ’Eaters came out strong at the start of the second. They held a 15-point lead within the first two minutes of the half. Thereafter, however, their stats dropped off a bit compared to the first half. Despite Wilder’s 11 points in the second, the Highlanders cut down the lead to six with 11 minutes to go.

“In the second half, we looked really tentative against their zone,” Turner said. “We need to continue to be aggressive so we don’t fall into that mode of allowing a team time on the shot clock.”

The game came down to the wire in the final three minutes. UCR cut the lead to one with 2:25 to play.

With less than 30 seconds to play, Starring was fouled and went to the free throw line, where he made one of two. UCR took advantage of the missed shot and scored a quick lay-up in transition. 13 seconds remained when Coach Turner called a time out, leading 50-48.

With the ball under the Riverside basket and no open man to inbound the ball to, sophomore Travis Souza called another time out. In the next attempt, Souza found an open man and was fouled on a return pass. Shooting one-and-one, Souza converted both free throws. The final buzzer sounded and the ’Eaters pulled off a four-point victory.

The win avenged a loss at UCR earlier in the season. Young had 10 points, eight rebounds and four assists. Starring finished with eight points and Folker added seven.

UCI hosts Pacific on Wednesday at 7 p.m. before heading to Arlington, Texas for a BrackBusters matchup on Saturday evening.