by Henry Curi
Photo Provided by UCI Athletics
The UCI men’s basketball team began their Big West Conference play against Hawaii at the Bren Events Center on Jan. 11, improving to 9-8 overall and 1-0 in conference as they ran away with a 74-60 victory. The team looked to bounce back after a close loss against Harvard in their previous match-up and looked to pick up right where they left off last season as the best team in the league.
With nine freshmen on the team, head coach Russell Turner looked to really implement his young players into the mix, giving valuable minutes for people such as first-years Isaiah Lee and Aiden Krause.
UCI’s play in the paint was key to their first half success, as the team executed on 20 first half points near the basket compared to Hawaii’s six. The Anteaters were able to clog up the lane and allow no easy looks for open layups, which caused Hawaii to struggle offensively.
But Hawaii’s freshman guard Justin Webster became a problem for UCI, as he was able to easily come off screens to create his own shots. Despite this, Webster did not have much offensive help from his teammates as they struggled on the field, only making 32 percent of their overall shot attempts.
UCI sophomore Colin Welp put his own offensive showing in the first half as well, accounting for 11 of his own points coming off of spot-up jumpers and and savvy post-play.
The first half concluded with Irvine leading Hawaii 39-25.
The second half showed to be more of a back and forth, as both teams had multiple scoring runs, keeping things competitive.
Hawaii’s Samuta Avea proved to be a catalyst for his team’s efforts to stay within striking distance as he relentlessly attacked the rim play after play. While doing this, he racked up 14 of his own points.
The Anteaters had too much firepower for Hawaii to handle as they had four different players scoring in double figures. Welp led the way with 18 points of his own.
In the end, UCI’s impressive play throughout the field proved to be too much for Hawaii as the Anteaters had too many players performing at high efficiency levels.
Redshirt junior Brad Greene, who recorded a Bren Events Center rebounds record with 21, stated after the game on just how significant this first league win is for the team.
“I think it’s pretty big. Not only to open up the conference, but our team in the preseason didn’t really get the results we kind of wanted, you know. But we wanted to show that we’re competitors and that we’re here to compete the whole way through the season.”
UC Irvine will play against Orange County rival Cal State Fullerton on Wednesday, Jan. 15 as they look to keep this momentum going on the road.