UCI Men’s Basketball Fall to Hot Aggies in Battle for Big West Supremacy

In the game that would decide who would remain in first place of the Big West Conference, the UC Irvine Men’s basketball team (13-9, 6-2) fell to UC Davis (17-4, 7-1) at the Bren Events Center on Thursday night, to a score of 75-56. The Anteaters’ loss pushes them back to third place, behind Davis and Long Beach State, in the Big West standings. UCI had troubles on all cylinders, as they could neither score nor defend against the aggressive Aggies. Irvine had their worst offensive performance of the season, shooting 30 percent from the floor and 20 percent for threes. In contrast to the ‘Eaters’ poor performance, UC Davis had their best game from beyond the arc this season, making 70 percent of their shots from deep. UC Davis, missing their leading scorer senior Corey Hawkins, had no problem finding offense as senior Josh Ritchart had a near perfect night making 10 out of 11 shots for the game high 22 points. UCI junior guard Alex Young was injured early in the first half and would not return to play for the rest of the contest. Injuries and a bad overall performance by the Anteaters ended their winning streak at six and pushed them out of contention for the first spot of the Big West Conference. Both teams began the first half trading baskets and playing good defense. UCI senior forward John Ryan had a huge impact on defense as he recorded four blocks in the first half to go along with three points and seven rebounds. Ryan’s presence in the paint and effort on the offensive boards kept the game neck-and-neck early in the first period. Irvine had a tough time scoring the ball, as they shot an abysmal 31 percent in the first half. The Anteater defense wasn’t any better, as the Aggies scored 50 percent from the floor. UC Davis’ Ritchart contributed to the Aggies’ 18 points in the paint in the first half, as he was a perfect 5-5 scoring to go along with three rebounds. Davis took the lead and would control the game from that point on. A 17-6 run by UC Davis, sparked by UCI’s inability to score, led to the ten-point lead at the end of the half for the Aggies. UCI’s John Ryan continued to produce going into the second half, as he protected the paint with three blocks in the second period, ending the night with seven points, nine rebounds and five blocks. UC Davis would not stop trying to attack the basket and caught Ryan into foul trouble. With Irvine’s anchor on defense forced to sit on the bench, Davis began pulling away with their inside shots. While Long Beach State won their game against the CSUN Matadors with ease, UC Davis took control of the game and made a statement to solidify their spot along side the 49ers atop the conference. Nothing seemed to be going the Anteaters’ way, as they could not find an offensive flow or establish a defensive presence that they are known for. UCI senior forward Will Davis ll was the only Anteater in double figures as he scored 18 points on the night. Irvine’s interior defense seemed non-existent as they gave up a total of 40 points in the paint. UC Davis, looking to make a statement, did not take their foot off the pedal and continued their intensity until the end of the game. With 4:30 left in the game, a three point shot by Josh Ritchart seemed to seal the deal for the Aggies and leave Irvine with a huge win on the road. “We haven’t had a night like that where we had so few guys play well, in a long time,” said UCI head coach Russell Turner, “but that was the case tonight.”With coming off their worst performance offensively in the season, the ‘Eaters look to go back to their winning ways as they face Long Beach State in the Pyramid on Saturday. “I think we have resilient tough kids,” adds Turner, “I hope that our team will be able to bounce back and I think we will.” The Anteaters got a huge win on the road Saturday night against the 49ers in a closely contested game with 3,834 fans in the Walter Pyramid. With starters Alex Young and Mamadou Ndiaye out with injuries, it was important for UCI to come out with a positive team effort to get over their loss against UC Davis Thursday night. Senior Forward Will Davis ll scored a season high 22 points, accompanied by seven rebounds, to help boost the ‘Eater offense. Sophomore Jaron Martin, who started off the night struggling to score shooting 3-11 on the night, became the hero for Irvine as he made a drive in layup to give the Anteaters the one point edge over Long Beach with 1.4 seconds remaining in the game. Senior Travis Souza came up clutch grabbing the steal to seal the game and keep their first place hopes alive in the Big West conference. UCI is now tied for second place, along side Long Beach State, in the conference and hope to secure their spot against the UC Riverside Highlanders on the road Saturday night.