In their first true test of the season, the UC Irvine Men’s basketball team (2-0) passed with flying colors with a dominant win over Loyola Marymount (1-1), 77-53, at the Bren Events Center on Sunday.
Senior forward Mike Best continued his hot streak as he set a new career high with 22 points to go along with eight rebounds, an assist, and a steal.
“I’m really happy for Mike to have a performance like this,” said head coach Russell Turner, “He’s waited a long time for the spotlight to find him […] and he’s clearly playing with confidence.”
Although he was 0-6 from behind the arc, junior guard Luke Nelson had an impressive stat line with 12 points, five assists, four rebounds and four steals. It was the ‘Eaters collective effort on offense, shooting 52% as a team, and their stellar defense, keeping LMU shooting an egregious 27% from the field and 23% from deep, that led to the convincing win at home.
“I thought our team did a good job on the defensive end throughout the game”, said Turner of their improved defensive performance from their opener against UCSD, “I’m excited about that because that represents improvement for us.”
Similar to their game against UCSD last Friday, an early hot start came from the ‘Eaters in the first half as they began with a 7-0 run and kept LMU scoreless for nearly three minutes of play. Both teams played a full-court press for the majority of the game, in which the ‘Eaters capitalized scoring easy shots inside, outscoring the Lions in points in the paint, 38-14, for the game. The defensive performance for the ‘Eaters fueled a 10-3 run which put them in double figures with under 10 minutes left in the half. All but one of the ‘Eaters who played in the first half scored, contributing to the team’s 53% shooting at the half and finishing the half with a 39-25 lead.
Known for starting halves inconsistently, the ‘Eaters gave up 11 turnovers in the second half but managed to maintain and increase their lead due to their continuous effort on the defensive end.
“I was pleased with the performance on the defensive end more than I was disappointed with us turning the ball over, I think we’ll get better at handling the ball,” said Turner on the number of turnovers in the second half.
Defense did really overshadow the ‘Eater mistakes as they kept LMU to just five points in nearly 10 minutes of play in the second half. The ‘Eaters did not let the Lions get closer than 15 after that and cruised to 24 point victory at home.
After going on the road to face off against UCF, the ‘Eaters will return home next Monday and meet the Santa Clara Broncos before their first game in the Wooden Legacy Tournament in Fullerton.