In the loss Friday night against Utah State, the UC Irvine men’s basketball team failed to get the veteran leadership they desperately needed. Monday night’s matchup against South Dakota State, however, turned to be a completely different story.
Behind career nights from senior guard Jaron Martin and sophomore forward Jonathan Galloway, the ‘Eaters (1-1) were able to earn their first win of the season against the Jackrabbits by a score of 73-58. Martin scored a career high 24 points in the victory while Galloway grabbed a career best 14 rebounds. Their performances helped pace the ‘Eaters 46 percent shooting and held the Jackrabbits (0-2) to just a mere 28 percent for the game.
“The first game didn’t go as we planned but that’s a learning experience we took and bounced back in this game and it was just nice to actually see the ball go through the hoop,” said Martin, “We played much better on defense today … and I believe we were really locked into our game planand we executed.”
Apart from the rebounding, Galloway earned four blocks and held South Dakota State senior and the Summit League’s Preseason Player of the Year Mike Daum to just 3 for 11 shooting from the floor and 0 for 5 from beyond the arc.
“That’s winning basketball … when you’re a player who can have an impact with offensive rebounding energy and defensive rebounding presence,” said head coach Russell Turner of Galloway’s performance. “His intelligence, versatility, and there is so much there about him that I admire and you didn’t see much of that in the first game but we saw a lot of it tonight so I’m really happy with his bounce back.”
UCI came hot off the first tip scoring eight unanswered points to grab an early lead. The Jackrabbits would respond with a 10-2 run of their own and knot things up at 10 apiece. The ‘Eaters did their damage in the interior in the first half as they scored more than half of their total points inside the paint. Irvine’s defense helped them go on a 10-0 spurt to earn a double digit advantage and they never looked back. South Dakota State shot a poor 25 percent in the opening period in the ‘Eaters’ favor and UCI would go up 37-23 heading into the second half.
The second half saw the ‘Eaters go up by as many as 24 points, primarily due to the Jackrabbits’ inability to score on the ‘Eater defense. The ‘Eaters held South Dakota State to just two threes for the entirety of the second half and shooting 32 percent from the floor. The matchup is the opening game of the Sanford Pentagon Showcase and the first of two against South Dakota State for the ‘Eaters.
“We have speed, quickness, and athleticism that is different from what we had in my time year and I thought tonight … we were smart and more controlled,” said Turner. “I thought we were better in our man and our zone (defenses) tonight and that is important because I want to have versatility defensively and with our personnel we need that.”
Irvine’s freshman duo of Evan Leonard and Eyassu Worku contributed to the ‘Eaters’ total tally with nine and seven points respectively. Along with his scoring, Worku also grabbed four rebounds and dished out three assists. Redshirt freshman guard Max Hazzard displayed his activity on the court and registered seven points, two steals, two assists, and one rebound.
Preseason all-conference honoree senior guard Luke Nelson (hamstring) did not play in Monday night’s game due to a precautionary decision made by coach Turner.
The ‘Eaters will have another quick turnaround as they face Cal on the road Wednesday night at 8:00 p.m., which will be broadcasted on the Pac-12 Network.