In the first quarterfinal matchup of the 2015 DIRECTV Wooden Legacy tournament, the UC Irvine men’s basketball team (4-1) suffered their first loss of the season against Boise State in Fullerton on Thanksgiving day. The Broncos (3-2) took advantage of the Eaters, playing zone defense the entire game, and buried 11 three point shots for the contest.
Bronco senior guard Anthony Drmic led all scorers with 21 points, 12 of those coming from deep. Also contributing to the Broncos’ three point barrage was junior forward Nick Duncan, cashing in four shots from beyond the arc. The Broncos’ ability to space the floor and make the extra pass exposed the ‘Eater defense, as their 25 field goals for the game came from their 21 assists. The ‘Eaters’ inability to guard the perimeter and get rebounds off their zone led to their first round loss of the tournament, 71-64.
“Thier style of play won out over ours today,” said UCI head coach Russell Turner, “We allowed them to make 11 threes which was something we knew that could beat us.”
Early on, the ‘Eaters were called for committing offensive fouls which led to junior center Mamadou Ndiaye’s limited minutes, 19, on the floor. Irvine’s early defensive intensity caused Boise State to commit four turnovers in the opening three minutes of the game and jumped to a 4-0 lead. The Broncos were held scoreless in nearly five minutes into the game until Duncan hit his first three of the night, which sparked their offense to tie the game up 8-8. Combating the six threes made by Boise State in the first half, the UCI backcourt duo of junior Luke Nelson and senior Alex Young combined for 19 points of the ‘Eaters’ 27 at the half, to help steady the offense in a neck and neck affair. The half ended with a buzzer beater three by Drmic to give the Broncos the edge at the half, 30-27.
In the second half, the ‘Eaters uncharacteristically utilized a small lineup to counter Boise State, with junior guard Jaron Martin sharing the floor with Nelson and Young. Back to back threes, from the Aussie duo of Drmic and Duncan, fueled an eight point lead for the Broncos two minutes into the second half, 37-29. After the lead remained consistent in favor of the Broncos, ‘Eater freshman guard Brandon Smith drove into the paint to make a basket with the foul to cut the deficit to three with 11:09 left in the game, capping an 8-2 run. Young hit a pair of free throws, with ten minutes left in the game, to cut the Bronco lead to just one, 48-47, but that was as close as the ‘Eaters got as they were not able to attain the lead for the entire second period of play. The Broncos were able to have a run of their own, 7-2, and push their lead to six, 55-49, with 6:49 left in the game. The ‘Eaters battled it out but a few sluggish turnovers sealed the game for Boise State to advance and face No. 3 Michigan State tomorrow in a semifinal matchup of the tournament.
“We’re disappointed to lose but we know we’ve got a big game tomorrow and we’re thankful to have the team that we have and we’re looking forward for the opportunity to compete again tomorrow”, said Turner.
The ‘Eaters will compete in consolation play of the tournament beginning with a Friday matchup against Boston College at 12:00 p.m. in Titan Gym. The game will be aired on ESPN3.