By: Aviraj Gokool
Photography By: UCI Athletics
The UCI Men’s Basketball team celebrated a phenomenal 74-67 win against Cal Poly which improved their overall record to (12-9) and allowed them to remain in first place in the Big West (4-1) on Jan. 25 at the Bren Events Center. The team was hungry for a victory after their previous loss against Long Beach State.
It was a harsh battle of endurance and composure as each team fought for the momentum of the game, turning tides and keeping everyone on their toes until the end.
The Anteaters started the game strong with a 9-0 scoring run, applying defensive pressure on the Mustangs within the first minutes of the game. However, after some timeout calls, the Mustangs answered back with a barrage of threes from Junior Ballard and Kyle Colvin. Tight defense from Cal Poly also made plays difficult for the Anteaters as they intercepted passing and driving lanes and created loose ball situations.
UCI redshirt junior Brad Greene went six for six shootings in the first half along with grabbing crucial rebounds. This kept the team and audience’s spirits up despite the team’s slow start. The paint and mid-range space were also fundamental areas for the Anteaters as they scored 27 of their 38 points from those spots in the first half.
With both teams showcasing splendid offense and defense, the first half ended with Irvine leading Cal Poly 38-35.
After the halftime, Cal Poly utilized full-court and half-court presses, maintaining excellent offensive transitions, drawing fouls and making their free throws count.
Cal Poly’s defensive pressure intensified as the second half went by, almost causing multiple eight second violations and even forcing a timeout from the Anteaters.
The Anteaters fought back with their own defensive pressure in the paint as they were able to block shot attempts from inside the key, grab rebounds and cause turnovers leading to more offensive opportunities.
Even with a three point shooting slump, going 20% in both halves of the game vs. Cal Poly who made 45% of their three pointers overall, the Anteaters were able to combat their three point drought with buckets in the low-post and rebounds leading to put backs and second chance points.
As the score fluctuated throughout the final minutes of the game, junior Collin Welp found his rhythm as he whipped out several smooth post moves, post-fades, hook shots and drew contact in his shots. His defensive game had a viscous presence in the paint as he heavily contested shots and forced bad ones against Cal Poly.
Welp, who tied as the lead scorer with Evan Leonard, commented on the importance of the team’s offensive presence.
“The emphasis was to play two hour post players and to just play physical inside. I think that showed down the stretch,” he said.
The crowd was hyped after several outstanding plays from Welp. Leonard invigorated the whole arena with witty dribble moves, flying past defenders as he completed and-1 plays along with getting open looks from mid-range and the three-point line.
“We are big, the coach expects us to play physical. The freshmen are starting to learn this mentality, it’s the mentality since I’ve been a freshman — be aggressive, tough and try to win on the glass, in the paint and on defense,” Greene, who finished with eight rebounds and 12 points, said.
UCI’s next matchup will be an away game against UC Davis on today, Jan. 30, at 7:00 p.m.