Maintaining their perfect start to conference play, the UC Irvine men’s basketball team (15-5, 4-0) closed out on a 17-0 run to edge UC Santa Barbara, 61-52, in the Thunderdome Saturday night.
The win serves as the ‘Eater’s first victory at Santa Barbara under head coach Russell Turner. Garnering a 15-5 overall record this season gives the ‘Eaters their best start since the 2000-2001 campaign, where they started 17-3.
Early on, the ‘Eaters seemed to be riding off the momentum gained from their win over Long Beach State, as they opened up with an 8-0 run. The tide would immediately change, however, as the Gauchos (7-9, 1-2) would answer back with a 15-0 run of their own, with all their shots coming from deep. The Gauchos’ 47 percent shooting from beyond the arc would hurt the ‘Eaters as it attributed to 24 of their total 30 first half points. Junior guard Eric Childress shot a perfect four-for-four on three-point shots as he scored all of his 12 points in the first half.
The ‘Eaters were able to sustain the Gaucho three-point barrage behind senior forward Mike Best’s performance in the second half, putting up 16 of his total 20 points on the contest. Behind Best’s showing offensively, also grabbing eight rebounds on the night, the ‘Eaters were able to keep the game close and head into the second period down 30-28.
Coach Turner’s message during halftime was clear, as the ‘Eaters’ effort on defense is what ultimately won them the game. The ‘Eaters held the Gauchos scoreless for the last 10:49 of the contest and cashed in at the free throw line 14 times in the second half.
Junior center Mamadou Ndiaye notched his fifth double-double of the season as he turned his one-point first half into a 11-point, 13 rebound performance.
Their victory over the Gauchos now pushes the ‘Eaters to five consecutive wins and places them on top of the Big West alongside Hawaii, 4-0, in conference play.
Saturday night’s matchup concludes the two-game road trip for the ‘Eaters, as they will host Cal State Fullerton on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. (Prime Ticket).