By: Aviraj Gokool
Photography By: Kate Rutz-Robbins
The UCI Men’s Basketball team celebrated after a tremendous 91-61 win against the Cal State Fullerton Titans at the Bren Events Center on Feb. 1. The Anteaters improved their record, 14-9, and their Big West record,6-1.
The Anteaters started the game strong, showcasing their chemistry through communication on both defense and offense; pressuring the paint, setting screens, making the extra pass and finding the open shooter. As a result, they saw themselves with an 11-2 run in the first four minutes of the game.
Not only were the Anteaters in sync offensively, but also on the defensive end. They were able to cause 10 turnovers; capitalizing their points through steals, fouls and forced violations against the Titans.
In an attempt to answer back to the Anteaters’ aggressiveness, the Titans focused their defense in the paint. However, it proved fatal for them because the Anteaters punished them with multiple threes, going 5-7 at the three-point line by the end of the first half.
Out rebounding, attaining more assists, shooting smart shots and making their free throws count, the Anteaters seemed to be unstoppable as they were superior in every aspect of the game.
“It’s what defines our team — sharing the ball [and] taking good shots,” said senior Tommy Rutherford, who ended the first half with a perfect shooting percentage. ”On the defensive end, communication is always a big thing for our team. It’s an expectation to communicate, it’s what our coaches preach to us every day. On the offensive end, we practice a lot. We worked on those little things that are important, setting good screens, moving the ball, getting the good spacing spots; it’s a big emphasis.”
The Anteaters were controlling the game as they were up 54-34 by the end of the half.
Intensifying their defense in the second half, the Titans started by pressuring the Anteaters at full court, causing loose balls and almost multiple eight second violations. They intercepted passing lanes, clogged the driving lanes and heavily contested the Anteaters’ shots.
The Titans were able to draw an abundance of fouls, as they frequently saw themselves at the free throw line and caused multiple players on the Anteaters to enter foul trouble. They ended up drawing 30 fouls against the Anteaters by the end of the night.
Even with all their efforts, the Anteaters’ powerful chemistry overpowered the Titans in the end. If the driving lanes were clogged, the Anteaters passed around the perimeter to find an open man. If the Titans overwhelmed the perimeter, they passed in the paint for an easy lay-in. If the shot missed, someone was there to get the rebound.
With the slick ball movement, smart shots and aggressive play, the Anteaters ended the night with 21 assists, 41 rebounds and 6 steals despite having more turnovers and fouls than the Titans. With exception to the first 16 seconds, the Anteaters were able to keep a gigantic lead the entire game due to their fantastic chemistry.
“It’s because of how much time we spend together, how much time we trust each other,” said redshirt junior Brad Greene, who ended the night with a double-double. “I think the community we’ve always had here at UCI has always been pretty good year in and year out. I feel like the freshmen coming in really wanted to be a part of this, so they committed themselves and I just feel like it’s how we are on and off the court is just building together.”
UCI looks to keep their win streak as they enter their next game against UC Davis on Thursday, Feb. 6 at the Bren Events Center.