The UC Irvine Men’s Basketball team (4-4) lost in the Bren Events Center Friday night against UT Arlington (5-4) 70-62, giving the Eaters their first loss at home this season.
Sophomore Guard Luke Nelson led both teams in scoring with 19 points, but it still wasn’t enough to give the Anteaters the victory. UT Arlington had three players in double figures as their team effort on both sides of the court got them the win over UCI. The shots were not falling for the ‘Eaters Friday night, as they made only 35.6% shots from the field. The lack of consistency on offense and defense, allowing nine 3-point shots for the Mavericks, was the reason for their streak of eight straight home wins to come to an end.
There was a feeling out period for both teams in the first half, as both teams’ defense would not allow the other team’s offense to maintain a rhythm. Early on, the Anteaters looked to Nelson on offense, as he scored 11 out of their 13 points, seven minutes into the game. UCI benefitted from their defensive play in the zone, as the Anteaters scored 16 out of their total 34 points off turnovers in the first half. UT Arlington took advantage of Irvine’s inability to score the ball consistently on offense as they caused 10 UCI turnovers and cashed in six threes at the half. As the game went on, the Anteaters struggled to claim their identity as a defensive and inside team as UTA protected the rim with three blocks and a number of contested shots in the paint, holding UCI to shoot 44% from the field. Irvine was forced to shoot from the outside where they shot a miserable 11% in the first half. The inconsistency at both ends for the Eaters caused them to trail at the half 40-34, in what would be a closer game in the second half.
Senior Forward Will Davis ll provided a boost on offense for Irvine as he scored 11 points in the second half to put the Anteaters back into the game. With Davis finding his shots inside, the Anteaters found their identity and began to trade leads with the Mavericks. UTA benefitted from their performance off the bench as sophomore guard Drew Charles (15 points) and senior forward Greg Gainey (11 points) contributed to the overall of 36 points from the reserves for the Mavericks. Although Irvine had a poor night shooting, they did have many second chances with 14 offensive rebounds that led to 13 second chance points on the night. As the game was heading into a closely contested final four minutes, Luke Nelson fouled out and would result into the ‘Eaters, once again, looking for where to go on offense.
With UCI’s leading scorer out of the game, they would struggle to hang on to their lead and outlast the UTA Mavericks. UT Arlington did a good job clogging up the paint to prevent any inside shots for Irvine in the last two minutes of the game, making UCI a shooting team where they had struggles all night long. Arlington made their shots went it counted, shooting 49% on the floor. Irvine went on to lose the game 70-62, shooting a miserable 16.7% on three point shots.
A very disappointed Head Coach Russell Turner questioned the effort of his team looking at their performance Friday night.
“I think the defensive end and our performance there is reflective of our commitment and togetherness”, said Coach Turner, “that’s a really disappointing feeling”.
The UC Irvine Anteaters now have a record of 4-4 and will have another four game road trip leading in to the holidays.
“It’s a really disappointing feeling as the head coach of this extremely talented but under achieving team”, added Coach Turner.
The ‘Eaters look to bounce back this Tuesday in Baltimore against Morgan State (1-8) and be positive on their win column once again.
The UC Irvine Men’s Basketball team will be back on New Year’s Eve to play Hampden-Sydney in the Bren Events Center.