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UCI Drives Back Home on a 56-91 Loss to USC

UC Irvine’s Men’s Basketball team fell 2-3 on their overall record after a butchering 35 point loss to the University of Southern California Trojans on Dec. 8 at the Galen Center. 

After keeping the score close in the first five minutes of the first half, the Trojans, led by their top-scoring forwards Evan (22 points,11 rebounds) and Isaiah Mobley (9 points, 6 rebounds), continued their reputational two-way play to push their lead way out of reach. 

“It’s hard to come away from this performance with a good feeling,” UCI head coach Russell Turner said. 

UCI continued their field goal woes, shooting 33% overall and 21% from the outside. Furthermore, ball security played yet another prominent role in their loss with 14 turnovers, a continuing trend with this Anteater squad. 

Despite how effective they were as a rebounding team, ending the night with 34 boards, they still fell short of converting any of it into points, only scoring nine second-chance points as opposed to USC’s 16 second-chance points. Putting all their chips into the offensive side of the ball, the Anteaters died on that hill, launching up airballs and lacking effort getting back on defense.

“Our guys tend to be too offensively focused, like a lot of young players do,” Turner said.

However, freshman guard Dawson Baker increased his stock on yet another night, leading the Anteaters in scoring with 17 points. Although a bulk of the team’s points were scored in garbage time, the freshman played tight defense and took good shots, hitting 6-9 from the field. He capped the night scoring more points from the bench than the starting five combined. 

Moreover, UCI’s reputable defense was unable to hit their stride. Senior big man Brad Greene opened the game in deep foul trouble, forcing the veteran rebound leader to take on restricted minutes. This would allow the USC Mobley brothers to take advantage of Greene’s absence in the paint. Additionally, the guards lost a step on their perimeter defense, enabling the Trojans to shoot 50% from the outside. 

“I thought there were some things that we could do to control the game, but we couldn’t get our footing defensively. We couldn’t do anything at all to dictate the game with our defense,” Turner said. 

There is no question that the Trojans were the consensus pick to win this game by a wide margin, but there is plenty more high-level competition the Anteaters are preparing for this season. Turner notes that he has not changed the way he looks at his young team’s potential. 

“I got to figure out how to get our team to a better place against division one opponents … I still think we can compete for the championship,” Turner said.

The Anteaters play the Loyola Marymount Lions on Thursday, Dec. 17 at 7 p.m. at the Gersten Pavilion.

Jaidee Maximo Villaflor is a Sports Intern for the 2020 Fall Quarter. He can be reached at jaideev@uci.edu.