UCI closes out winter break with an 85-74 win over the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. The ‘Eaters improved to 12-4 after taking two tough losses on the road during winter break to Butler 54-71 and Pacific 75-84 in overtime. Despite their losses, UCI was ready to finish their break strong and it showed in their dominant first half performance against the UTRGV Broncos.
Out of the gate, UCI was ready to run away with the game; juniors Max Hazard and Evan Leonard each made a three-pointer to give UCI an 8-0 lead after junior Tommy Rutherford began the scoring for UCI. The ‘Eaters were lethally consistent especially in the first half, where they saw their season-high shooting percentage for threes; 57.9 percent and and the field 55.8 percent. Max Hazard’s numbers had a considerable impact as he shot 85.7 percent, making six of seven attempts. The ‘Eaters built up a thirteen point lead to begin the first period before the Broncos could establish their footing. UCI’s momentum severely hindered UTRGV as they made eight of 30 attempts in the first half. UCI extended their lead to 19 points with 0:52 left to play in the half. UTRGV was able to respond in the closing seconds of the half, but UCI still led 36-19.
The ‘Eaters continued to build their lead in the second half. Evan Leonard made a hard push to bring UCI’s lead to a commanding 28 points at 29-57, when he stole the ball and put up a three-pointer and then drew a foul resulting in two good free throws. The ‘Eaters ultimately gave up more points than they scored in the second half, due in part to an increase in fouls. In the first half the Broncos went 2-4 from the line, but in the second half those numbers jumped considerably to 13-15. UCI held a roughly 20 point lead through the remainder of the game but in the closing minutes UTRGV managed to reduce that lead to eleven points at 75-84.
Their twelfth win of the season ties a record for most non-conference wins in a season as UCI heads into their first conference game next week. Thursday, Jan. 10 the ‘Eaters host their first conference opponent, UC Davis. The Aggies are 3-10 and they have yet to win on the road despite seven chances. A win over the Aggies is exactly the kind of start to conference play the ‘Eaters are hoping for.