By Hunter Hermanson
To kick off their 2018-2019 season, the UCI Anteaters hosted the University of Idaho Vandals. Both teams are coming off winning seasons, the Vandals having finished last season 22-9 and the ‘Eaters are coming off of a 18-17 year. Unlike the Vandals, who lost seven of their top active scorers last season, UCI has remained for the most part intact. Dec. 21 was the last meeting between the two teams, where then-sophomore Evan Leonard picked up 20 points en route to a 67-59 win for the ‘Eaters. After a 112-57 exhibition win over the University of La Verne, UCI hoped to find success again as they took on the Vandals in the Bren Events Center on Tuesday Nov. 6.
The first half saw the ‘Eaters facing adversity early as the Vandals took a 0-5 lead. Max Hazard turned things around when he used his speed to get inside the defense and put up two points. The Vandals attempted to suppress UCI’s offense as they played full press for most of the half. This made scoring difficult for the ‘Eaters as they could not break inside the Vandal’s defense. UCI overcame the halt as junior John Edgar Jr. hit one of his many mid range jumpers to start six unanswered points for the ‘Eaters, making the score 8-9.
“We had trouble with our big men inside at first, so we had to hit a lot of mid-range shots,” Edgar said about breaking through the Vandal’s initial defensive push. The other four unanswered points came as Junior Eyassu Worku took control. Worku had two back-to-back steals and put up four points to match at the 15:05 mark. With 11:12 left to play, senior Elston Jones gave UCI their first lead when he drew a foul on a mid range shot, the additional free throw gave the ‘Eaters a 15-14 lead. Junior Tommy Rutherford added two points and Jones another two to give the ‘Eaters their largest lead of the half, 21-16. The ‘Eaters’ ball movement gave trouble to the Vandals’ aggressive defense. Idaho managed two three pointers to chip away the lead UCI built. The ‘Eaters had a few defensive lapses and closed the half trailing 30-34.
The ‘Eaters came back from half-time determined and Rutherford started things off in the ‘Eater’s favor with a quick two points. The Vandals responded with a three pointer to extend their lead. Worku nailed a three of his own on a pass from Rutherford at the 17:11 mark to tie the game 39-39. The game would tie two more times before the ‘Eaters took a definitive lead. Graduate student Jonathan Galloway tied things 44-44 and Rutherford 46-46. The ‘Eaters began to pull away when the Vandals missed two free throws, which the ‘Eaters followed up with an impressive play where graduate student Robert Cartwright threw a bullet to Jones who drained a three for the 54-49 lead. From there the ‘Eaters kept rolling. Moving the ball well, UCI built up a 71-60 lead after Worku ran one inside past the Vandal’s defense. Worku tacked on another three pointer with 3:48 left to play to once again extend the lead to 74-61. Jones came up with a huge block with 2:32 left to play. Edgar and Hazard both put up threes in the closing minutes to bring the final score to 86-68.
In their debut Essayu Worku had 18 points and six assists. Newcomer but veteran ball player Cartwright had nine points, three assists, a turn over and a steal in 15:59 minutes of play.
Coach Russell Turner is confident in the team and feels good about their future. “I’m proud of the team win. If we can do that on a regular basis I think we can be pretty good,” he noted the team’s progress from one half to another. The ‘Eaters turned the ball over only three times in the second half compared to six in the first. The ‘Eaters also showed an ability to overcome adversity. With the victory, the ‘Eaters start the season off 1-0 and travel to College Station to take on Texas A&M Friday Nov. 9.