Heading into their Tuesday night clash with No. 2 Kansas, the UC Irvine men’s basketball team (10-5) looked to be getting back on track after winning the Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational last week in El Paso.
Their 80-62 victory over Norfolk State marked sixth-year head coach Russell Turner’s 100th victory, and placed senior point guard Alex Young one assist shy from tying the all-time assists record set by Raimonds Miglinieks, who played from 1994-1996, with 475 assists.
Before entering conference play, the ‘Eaters had a challenging test in front of them, going against the number two ranked team in the nation in one of the most boisterous atmospheres in all of college basketball.
Young broke the record Tuesday night in Lawrence, but the team ultimately fell to the Jayhawks (11-1) by a score of 78-53 in the historic Allen Fieldhouse.
A tightly-contested first half was followed by an overwhelming 16-2 Jayhawk run to open up the second period, keeping Kansas undefeated at home this season.
Jayhawk senior forward Perry Ellis (posting 14 points and nine rebounds) and junior guard Frank Mason III (garnering 13 points, six assists and three steal performances) paved the way for Kansas in their victory over the ‘Eaters. Junior center Mamadou Ndiaye led all ‘Eaters with 12 points, eight rebounds and two blocks.
The patented ‘Eaters zone troubled the Jayhawks early on as they shot 38 percent from the field in the first half. The ‘Eaters did a good job by holding the eighth best scoring team in the nation to just 28 points in the first half. The ‘Eaters invited Kansas to shoot from deep and were able to hold the Jayhawks to a shaky 30 percent from deep. The ‘Eaters themselves also couldn’t capitalize from beyond the arc — shooting 25 percent in the first half — but relied heavily on their interior play to keep pace with the Jayhawks. Junior center Ioannis Dimakopoulos scored all 10 of his points in the first half making all four of his shots, two of those being from deep. The Jayhawks’ struggling offense and the ‘Eaters’ efficient 46 percent shooting helped keep the game tight at 28-26 in Kansas’s favor at the end of one period of play.
It was a tale of two halves, as Kansas seemed to have gotten the message in the locker room at halftime and came out guns blazing, shooting 56 percent from the field in the second half. Their heightened intensity on the offensive end leeched on to the defensive side of the floor as they held the ‘Eaters to an abysmal 29 percent shooting from the floor and 0-7 on three-point shots. Ellis scored 13 of his 14 points in the second half helping the Jayhawks outscore the ‘Eaters 50-27 in the second half. The ‘Eaters would cut the deficit to as close as nine, but ultimately let the game get away from their grasp as the Jayhawks coasted to victory.
The ‘Eaters will return home for the start of 2016 as they will face New Mexico State in their last game of the non-conference slate of their schedule. The game will be televised on KDOC TV on Jan. 2 at 7:30 p.m.