Head Coach Russell Turner decided to make history Friday night as the UC Irvine men’s basketball team (8-4) started the tallest team to ever open a game in college basketball history.
The anticipated lineup consisted of 6-8 senior Shawn Ray, 6-10 redshirt freshman Jonathan Galloway, 6-10 senior Mike Best, 7-2 junior Ioannis Dimakopoulos, and 7-6 junior Mamadou Ndiaye. The squad amounted for an average of 7 feet, making them taller than any other starting five in college basketball. As a result, the ‘Eaters received national attention from outlets like Bleacher Report and Fox News for their monumental feat.
“It was a good opportunity for us to seize the day and do something that has never been done before,” said Turner in his interview with UCI Athletics, “Those five guys came ready to play and competed very well.”
Ndiaye led all scorers with 13 points to go along with seven rebounds and four blocks, halting his streak of four consecutive double-doubles. Senior guard Aaron Wright also contributed with 12 points on the night off a 5-6 clip. Wright’s performance led the way for the ‘Eaters in outscoring Chapman, 35-6, in points off the bench. UCI’s defensive effort, holding the Panthers to 33% shooting, and their efficient 49% shooting percentage on the night led to their 65-51 win at the Bren Events Center.
Irvine’s presence inside was felt as they tallied 13 total blocks against the Panthers in the contest. The ‘Eaters never trailed in the game but allowed Chapman to cut the lead to as close as five with 18:45 left in the game. Chapman freshman guard Cam Haslam led all scorers with 21 points helping his team in the comeback effort early in the second half. Irvine was able to fend off the Panthers right back with a 15-4 run of their own with 12:18 left in the game to secure their double digit lead. The victory propelled the ‘Eaters to a perfect 4-0 home record this season heading on the road to cap off the year.
Friday night’s win over Chapman was the ‘Eaters’ lone home game in the month of December as they will head to Texas to compete in the Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational on Monday. UCI will close out 2015 with a game against Kansas on the 29th in the Allen Fieldhouse