UCI Men’s Basketball Celebrate 50th Anniversary of Homecoming with Win
The UC Irvine men’s basketball team (13-8, 6-1) improved to six straight victories on homecoming night, where they defeated the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos (10-11, 3-4) by a score of 77-55. With 3,773 roaring fans in the Bren Events Center on Saturday night, the Anteaters came to play and represent their school with a solid victory. Saturday night marked UC Irvine’s 50th anniversary since opening in 1965.
UC Irvine played an efficient game on offense, where they scored 50% on field goals and three point shots. Good offense for the ‘Eaters came from even better defense as they held the Gauchos scoring a low 36% from the floor and 25% from beyond the arc. Irvine sophomore guard, Luke Nelson had an overall impact on the game with 11 points, three assists, two steals and one rebound. The key for UCI’s victory was the play from their bench as they nearly scored half of their total points with 36. A good effort on defense and a great performance by their bench gave the Anteaters control of the game and allowed them to remain in the three-way tie for the top spot in the Big West Conference with UC Davis and Long Beach State.
The first half displayed a close game where both teams started off the gates with struggles to score. UCSB did a good job defending the paint against UCI, as the Anteater bigs had difficulty finding good looks and taking care of the ball early in the half. Irvine was forced to look to their bench to score as the starters had a shaky start. The Anteaters showed a balanced effort on offense as all but one of their players scored in the first half. UCSB shot nearly half of their shots from the perimeter but could not cash in and take opportunity of open shots. UC Irvine ended the half on a 14-7 run to give them the 10 point cushion going in to the second half with the score of 36-26.
With Irvine up double digits to begin the second half, there was no room for complacency, as the Gauchos would not go away. UCI began the second half with four turnovers and poor shots allowing their lead to be cut to five. UCI sophomore center Ioannis Dimakopoulos, with four points on the night, stopped the Gaucho run with a three point play, shifting the momentum back into the Anteater side. The play sparked four straight three point shots for the ‘Eaters, by Aaron Wright and Travis Souza, to give them the commanding lead of 21 points. Irvine proceeded to cruise to the victory winning 77-55.
“When we succeed defensively it leads to better offense,” said UC Irvine Head coach Russell Turner, speaking of his team’s ability to take advantage of UCSB’s poor night shooting.
With the Anteaters still in a three-way tie with UC Davis and Long Beach State for the top spot in the Big West, it is important for them to roll on their win streak.
“Having won six straight is a little bit of a concern,” said Turner, “because I don’t want complacency to seep in.”
The UC Irvine Anteaters play Thursday night in the Bren Events Center against UC Davis, where the winner can take the top spot of the conference.