Behind 14 points from both senior guards Luke Nelson and Jaron Martin, the UC Irvine men’s basketball team (10-9, 3-0) were able to fend off UC Santa Barbara (2-12, 0-2) on the road 66-62 Thursday night at the Thunderdome.
Nelson came up big by scoring 11 straight points for the ‘Eaters to conclude the first half to give them a 32-25 lead heading into halftime. Martin did his work in the second period as he scored all of his points there knocking in four of eight from deep. His four threes places him as eighth all time in the Anteater record books with 153.
For the Gauchos, junior guard Gabe Vincent led the scoring with 15 points. Senior guard Eric Childress and sophomore forward J.D. Slajchert added 12 points apiece.
UCI’s bench came to play as they outscored the Gaucho’s second unit 26-15. Both teams tied in the rebounding department, 36-36, but the ‘Eaters would edge the Gauchos is field goal percentage, 43.3-41.4 percent. The ‘Eaters shot 40 percent from deep while the Gauchos bested them at 46 percent from beyond the arc.
Irvine would find themselves up 15 in the second half but Santa Barbara would not go away and would trim the ‘Eater lead to just two with 1:33 left in the game. With 18 seconds left, senior center Ioannis Dimakopoulos hit a pair of free throws to secure the win for the ‘Eaters and improve them to 3-0 in conference.
The ‘Eaters will return to the Bren Saturday night as they host Cal State Fullerton for a 5:00 p.m. tipoff. The game will be televised and available for stream on ESPN3.