Having sustained a toe injury on Monday, junior guard Jaron Martin
was questionable heading into Wednesday night’s game against Cal State Fullerton (8-9, 1-3) However, after being cleared to play by team doctors, Martin didn’t miss a step and set a career high of 22 points in a 72-59 victory over the Titans.
“I wasn’t too sure if I was going to play today,” said Martin,”Coming into the game I had X-rays done and they said I was good, so I got warm, made some shots earlier in the game, and that just boosted my confidence and [allowed] me to find my rhythm.”
Martin’s performance led the UC Irvine Men’s basketball team (16-5, 5-0) to their sixth straight victory, their ninth win out of their last 10 games. The objective for the ‘Eaters was to contain redshirt junior guard Tre’ Coggins, who in his previous game set a career high of his own with 41 points.
The ‘Eaters were successful as they held Coggins to just four points off a 1-7 performance from the floor. In all, the ‘Eaters led for the entire game in front of a crowd of 2,211 people in attendance in the Bren Events Center, including UCI alum and former Oklahoma City Thunder coach Scott Brooks.
“The guy had 41 points and I think that gets everybody’s attention,” said head coach Russell Turner, “Our team was well focused on identifying where he was and making sure he wasn’t going to get anything easy.”
In absence of Coggins being able to lead the Titan offense, freshman guard Khalil Ahmad took the scoring responsibility and had a 21 point and seven rebound night. Freshman guard Kyle Allman Jr. also contributed to CSUF’s scoring with 16 points off 50 percent shooting.
Earning a seven point lead ending the first half, the ‘Eaters once again relied on their defense to keep the Titans without a field goal for a period of 11 minutes in the second half of play. While the ‘Eaters shot 45 percent from the floor, they held the Titans to a low 36 percent in field goals and 22 percent from deep. UCI also outrebounded the Titans 42-29, leading to their 10 second chance points in the contest.
In the second half, Martin scored four of his six threes in the period leading the ‘Eaters on a 9-0 run to put the game away from reach, ultimately giving the ‘Eaters a 25 point lead.
“He’s a proven scorer so what he did tonight did not surprise me,” said Turner of Martin’s performance, “Our team believes that, because of experiences in practice where he goes on scoring runs, that’s clearly what he’s capable of.”
Martin’s 22 points helped bolster the ‘Eaters’ 29 bench points as a whole, comparing to CSUF’s 22 total points off the bench.
“That’s what coach Tuner expects of me, to come into the game [and] assert myself as a scorer,” said Martin, “Whether that’s playmaking, getting to my open spots to shoot the three, or penetrating, and I think I did a good job of that in the second half and we extended the lead.”
The ‘Eaters will have the weekend off as they return to action on the road against CSUN Wednesday night for a 7:00 p.m. tipoff on ESPN3.