The historic season for the UC Irvine men’s basketball team comes to a conclusion tomorrow night as they play in the CIT tournament final against Columbia in the Levien Gymnasium. Going into the contest, the ‘Eaters stand with an overall record of 28-9 which is a program best in the win column.
Despite being bounced from the Big West Tournament last month by Long Beach State in the semifinals, the ‘Eaters were still confident in continuing in the postseason campaign. After being left out of the NIT bracket, to the disappointment of the team and coaching staff, the ‘Eaters proceeded to accept their invitation to the CollegeInsider.com Tournament to continue their season.
Tournament play began with a first round matchup against North Dakota where senior Mike Best shined, with 22 points and eight rebounds, leading his team to a 89-86 overtime win on the road. The victory broke the previous record of 26 wins in a season and gave the ‘Eaters a Bye in the next round of tournament play. Junior center Mamadou Ndiaye would suffer a knee contusion in the first half and was forced to sit out their next game in the tournament.
UCI would continue action on the road but this time in Louisiana to play the Ragin Cajuns of Louisiana-Lafayette. The ‘Eaters were in store for another neck and neck game as they escaped with a 67-66 victory behind a Best 10-foot jumper that found its way in the bucket leaving 3.6 seconds left in the game. Fellow senior Alex Young paved the way offensively scoring a game high 21 points to go along with eight rebounds. Among the big performances was redshirt freshman forward Jonathan Galloway who notched a career high 13 rebounds and four blocks. The cross country road trip would now go to Carolina where the ‘Eaters would face an unfamiliar opponent in Coastal Carolina.
Sunday’s semi final matchup against Coastal Carolina was a different story as the ‘Eaters comfortably earned the 66-47 victory. Ndiaye came back from his injury to post nine points, nine rebounds, and three blocked shots against the Chanticleers. Ending the first half on a 12-2 run, the ‘Eaters would never surrender the lead in the second period and punch their ticket to the CIT finals. The victory also marks the ‘Eaters’ 15th non-conference win and 13th on the road this season.
Tomorrow night’s championship game against the Lions will be held in New York City and be televised on CBS Sports Network for a 4:00 p.m. (pacific time) tipoff.