By: Stefan Curtis Jones
Photography Provided by UCI Athletics
The UCI Anteaters defeated the UC Davis Aggies with a score of 83-72 on Thursday, Feb. 6, granting them their longest win streak this season with four wins.
The Aggies were ready to seek revenge on the Anteaters after losing by 15 points in their prior match, starting the first half with extremely tight defense.
The Aggies recovered quickly after several switches and played vigorous man-to-man. Their defensive success allowed them to start the game on a 4-0 run. They did not back down from any player, doubling UCI senior Eyassu Worku & redshirt junior Brad Greene whenever they caught the ball. The Aggies’ trapping of Worku led to him picking up a charging foul, which was converted into a Davis bucket on the other side of the floor. This put UC Davis up 6-0.
The Anteaters did not remain scoreless for long after UCI senior John Edgar Jr. drained a three pointer. UCI freshman Jeron Artest followed Edgar Jr. ‘s play with a corner three pointer.
The Anteaters closed the first half with a 44-33 lead thanks to Worku’s shots, threes from Artest and senior Evan Leonard, and layups by Greene and senior Tommy Rutherford.
In the second half, Rutherford and Greene put on a dominant performance that gave the Anteaters a 20 point lead, but the Aggies did not let them maintain it for long.
Consistent mid-ranged jumpers, coupled with several three pointers and a 4-point play from UCD freshman Elijah Pepper brought the Aggies within five points at one point in the game. UCI noticed they were taking their foot off the gas and had a brief huddle to get everybody on the court back on track and to look towards the finish line.
To hold off a potential Davis comeback, Worku and UCI redshirt sophomore Collin Welp made accurate passes to Rutherford and Greene in the paint which put them in position to get gritty and go to the free throw line. Their free throws and the defensive efforts exerted by Edgar Jr. and Artest widened the scoring gap once more, giving the Anteaters their 83-72 win.
“Everyone on the court’s family, you got to step up where you’re needed. If that’s on the rebounding side, on defense, on offense, you always perform as best as you can,” said Greene about the team prevailing despite the early struggles and blowing their 20 point lead.
The UCI Men’s Basketball team will look to bring their win streak to five games and extend their Big West Conference record to 8-1 when they play UC Santa Barbara on Feb. 8 to start their three game road trip.