Heading to the SRC Arena in Riverside for their last road game of the regular season, the UC Irvine men’s basketball team (18-13, 11-4) took care of business against the Highlanders (7-20, 5-11) with a 68-56 victory and locked up a top two seed in the Big West Tournament next week.
The senior trio continued their recent scoring outbursts as Luke Nelson, Ioannis Dimakopoulos, and Jaron Martin combined for 54 total points. Nelson led all scorers with 21 points and became the all-time leader in three point shots (240) with his four in the game. He also places fifth in the Anteater record books with 394 assists and 136 steals while nearing Kevin Magee’s tally of 1,475 points at seventh place in scoring.
Dimakopoulos posted 19 points and five rebounds while going seven of 13 from the floor. Martin rounded out the senior play with 14 points and three assists.
The ‘Eaters were the aggressors on the glass and outrebounded the Highlanders 43-31 and scored 17 second chance points to Riverside’s two. Sophomore forward Jonathan Galloway registered seven points and seven rebounds with six of his boards being offensive. Irvine had their way in the interior and bullied Riverside in the paint 30-18. The ‘Eaters held the advantage in field goal percentage besting the Highlanders 40.7 to 33.3 percent.
UC Riverside senior Secean Jackson was honored during the Highlanders’ senior night ceremony and led his team with 17 points and seven rebounds.
Riverside held a 26-21 advantage with 6:17 remaining in the first half but the ‘Eaters would close out on a 12-5 run to earn a 33-31 lead at halftime. The ‘Eaters opened up the second stanza with a 15-3 run to jump on a 48-34 lead with 12:25 left to play. The Highlanders would close the gap to just seven points a couple of times in the waning minutes but the ‘Eaters did not let up and brought home the double-digit victory to set up a winner take all scenario on senior night on Saturday.
For the first time in the Big West’s 48-year old history, the regular season championship will be decided in the final game as the ‘Eaters and the Aggies of UC Davis (19-11, 11-4) will play for all the chips Saturday night at the Bren Events Center. The game will be televised on Prime Ticket and start with a 3:00 p.m. tipoff.