Having won their first four conference games with three of them being at home, the UC Irvine men’s basketball team had to demonstrate that they could maintain their dominance away from the Bren Events Center this week.
Wednesday night proved to be no problem for the ‘Eaters as they earned a 70-48 victory at Cal Poly (5-13, 0-4) to improve to a 12-9 overall record, a perfect 5-0 start to Big West play, and their seventh consecutive win.
Senior center Ioannis Dimakopoulos earned his third double-double of the season by posting 19 points and 10 rebounds. The ‘Eaters were once again able to impose their will inside as they outscored the Mustangs 34-16 in the paint.
Freshman forward Tommy Rutherford contributed 11 points and two rebounds to the effort in the trenches while freshman guard Eyassu Worku put up a nine point performance. Becoming a norm for the team, the ‘Eaters bench outscored the Mustangs’ second unit 32-22.
The contest marked UCI’s 66th win of the last 69 occurrences when they held the opposition to shooting under 40 percent – the Mustangs were held to just 24.1 percent Wednesday night at the Mott Athletics Center.
Amongst the good overall performance by the ‘Eaters was a sour note, however, as senior guard Luke Nelson was held out from playing in the second half for precautionary measure regarding the hamstring that caused him to miss the first half of the season. Head coach Russell Turner hopes to have Nelson available for their next matchup against CSUN.
Those who shined for the Mustangs were the forward tandem of sophomores Jakub Niziol (11 points and five rebounds) and Aleks Abrams (seven points and 12 rebounds).
After a competitive first opening minutes, the ‘Eaters used a 14-3 run to close out the first half and garner a 31-22 heading into intermission. In the second half, Cal Poly would close the gap to just five points ,with 12:13 left remaining, but the ‘Eaters responded well by outscoring the Mustangs 24-10 in the last 10 minutes of the game to secure their fourth road win of the season.
UCI will head up to Northridge on Saturday to face the Matadors (7-11, 3-2) for a 7:00 p.m. tipoff.