With their season coming to an end and having an opportunity to make even more history, the UC Irvine men’s basketball team headed to New York to face Columbia in the CIT championship game Tuesday night. Unfortunately for the ‘Eaters, the season would end on a sour note as they fell to the Lions 73-67 in front of 2,603 at Levien Gymnasium.
The ‘Eaters had an opportunity to be the first team in Big West history to win a postseason tournament championship but to no avail. History would still be made, however, as senior guard Alex Young became the first ‘Eater to notch 1000 career points, 500 assists, and 500 rebounds. Tuesday night’s game also pushed his school record of most games played to 139 games.
Senior Mike Best continued his recent hot streak of shooting by leading the ‘Eaters with 17 points and three blocked shots. Young contributed across the board with 10 points, six rebounds, and six assists. Despite the loss, both seniors would be named to the all-tournament team. For the Lions, senior guard Grant Mullins scored a game high 20 points off 6-8 shooting. The contest would have seven lead changes where the result would be determined in the closing five minutes of the game.
The ‘Eaters would ultimately shoot the better field goal percentage, 45 to 40 percent, but would lack composure down the stretch as Columbia would be the second Ivy League team to win a postseason title.
After being down 31-26 after the first half, the ‘Eaters would be rejuvenated out of the locker room and go on a 17-8 spurt to take the lead with 14 minutes remaining in the game. A Lion 12-0 run with 4:37 left in the contest would give them the lead for good pushing them to a 58-53 lead. Columbia would ice the game with their free throw shooting, 21 for 27 on the night and capitalizing on a technical foul called against the ‘Eaters, to win their first postseason tournament championship.
Irvine ends their season with a 28-10 record which accounts for most wins in program history. A long postseason road trip would come to a conclusion and so will an era of UCI basketball.