After missing the first 15 games of the 2016-2017 campaign with a hamstring injury, preseason all-Big West Conference guard Luke Nelson made his season debut against Life Pacific (5-6) last Friday and led the UC Irvine men’s basketball team (7-9) with 16 points in the 101-43 victory in the Bren Events Center.
In his return, Nelson shot 6-10 with four of them coming from beyond the arc. Head coach Russell Turner opted to get all his players valuable minutes and as a result all 13 ‘Eaters who saw action against their Division II opponents scored in the contest. The ‘Eaters’ bench outscored Life Pacific’s 59-27 and the team as a whole outrebounded the Warriors 54-15. UCI shot 57 percent for the game while holding their opponents to just 29 percent for the night. Irvine is now 64-3 in their last 67 games when holding the opposition to 60 points or less.
Freshman center Brad Greene registered a career night with 12 points (4-4), nine rebounds, and two blocks. Both senior center Ioannis Dimakopoulos (5-6) and freshman guard Darrian Traylor (career-best) scored 11 points against the Warriors. Sophomore forward Jonathan Galloway recorded eight rebounds and six assists, boosting Irvine’s 15 offensive rebounds and 21 second chance points. Rounding out the ‘Eaters, freshman guard Evan Leonard tallied nine points while both senior guard Jaron Martin and freshman guard Max Hazzard dished out five assists in the matchup.
Life Pacific junior guard James Noble led all scorers with 22 points going 4-8 on three-point shots.
The Warriors threw the first punch of the game taking an early 7-4 lead. The ‘Eaters responded well and answered with a 22-2 run to take the 26-9 lead with 10 minutes in the first half and never looked back.
The victory marks the ‘Eaters’ end to their non-conference slate as they begin Big West Conference play at home this week by hosting preseason favorite Long Beach State on Wednesday (ESPN3) and defending tournament champion Hawai’i on Saturday (Prime Ticket).