In what was a historic clash between the 7’6 centers, freshman Tacko Fall and junior Mamadou Ndiaye, the UC Irvine Men’s Basketball team (3-0) escaped Orlando with an overtime victory against UCF (0-2) Wednesday night at the CFE Arena. With the win, the ‘Eaters have earned their first 3-0 start since the 1982-1983 season.
Ndiaye struggled to stay on the floor with foul trouble but, when guarded by Fall, was held to 1-5 shooting and two rebounds. Fall was able to stay on the floor and garnered a six points, seven rebounds, and four blocks performance against the ‘Eaters.
Junior guard Luke Nelson led the Anteaters with a game high 22 points, accompanied by six assists and three rebounds, in the 61-60 win over the Knights. Senior forward Mike Best and senior guard Alex Young also scored in double figures with 10 points each, to help boost what was a dreadful outing on offense for the ‘Eaters . The game was tightly contested with both teams shooting roughly 34% from the field but the ‘Eaters committed fewer turnovers, seven compared to UCF’s 17, to separate themselves against the Knights.
Both teams struggled to shoot in the first half as they both shot under 33% from the field. The ‘Eater defense caused the Knights to cough the ball up eight times in the first half but struggled finishing defensive sets, being outrebounded 33-16. Irvine’s better shooting percentage, 32% compared to UCF’s 26%, gave them the 26-24 lead heading into the second half.
UCI’s low 38% shooting found them down to as many as seven points in the second half. Nelson fueled the ‘Eater offense, scoring 12 of his 22 points in the period, and their late game rally to take a 47-45 lead with 6:16 left in regulation. A dunk by Fall, with 26 seconds left in the game, forced an overtime period that saw Ndiaye score three of his five points to edge out the narrow victory for the ‘Eaters. The lone converted free throw by Ndiaye, after UCF’s A.J. Davis (who scored 19 for the Knights) tied it at 60 with 3:23 left in the overtime period, proved to be the game winner for UCI for their first road game of the season.
The Anteaters will return to the Bren Events Center next Monday to host Santa Clara before competing in the Wooden Legacy Tournament on Thanksgiving weekend.