The UCI Men’s Basketball team was defeated by the Loyola Marymount University Lions, 48-51, at the Gersten Pavilion on Thursday, Dec. 17.
The Anteaters (2-4) were looking to get their first Division I win of the season, but came up short to catch up to LMU (4-3) in the final minutes of the second half.
The game tipped off with UCI controlling the ball, and the first shot of the night by UCI redshirt senior center Brad Greene was a missed jumper.
Soon after, UCI freshman guard Dawson Baker, the leading scorer for the Anteaters, made the first bucket of the night to put the Anteaters first on the board.
LMU’s first points were made by freshman guard Jalin Anderson’s layup after UCI redshirt sophomore forward JC Butler missed a jump shot at the other end.
After a dunk by LMU redshirt sophomore guard/forward Dameane Douglas — who finished the night as LMU’s top scorer with 18 points — the game was tied at 6-6 with about 14 minutes left to play. Then, UCI sophomore guard Jeron Artest responded with a jumper, which gave the Anteaters a two point lead.
For the next four minutes, the game progressed slowly in the first half as a result of failed offensive trips that accounted for 10 missed shots in total by both LMU and the Anteaters. Despite UCI’s tight defensive strategy, their offense faltered and turned the ball over.
Finally, LMU senior guard/forward Eli Scott scored a jumper to tie up the score, 8-8. Another bucket by Scott gave two more points to LMU for their first lead of the night. Scott was then called on a foul that allowed UCI redshirt junior forward Collin Welp to tie up the score again for the Anteaters with completed free throws.
The game remained pretty tight and went back and forth for the next several minutes.
With six and a half minutes left in the half, UCI sophomore forward Austin Johnson scored his first points of the night with a jumper that tied the score, 12-12.
Suddenly, UCI began to break away with a 6-0 offensive run after Baker made two jumpers and Welp made one jumper, making the score 18-12.
After a completed layup by LMU sophomore forward Keli Leaupepe, UCI sophomore guard Isaiah Lee hit a three-pointer. This gave the Anteaters their largest lead of the night at 21-14 with over three minutes left in the half.
LMU’s offense failed to convert on their chances as they missed shots and turned the ball over. Despite their offensive woes, LMU’s defense led by Leaupepe prevented the Anteaters from moving the ball into the paint.
After a free throw and a layup by LMU’s Scott and Douglas, the Anteaters led by three at the half, 21-17.
Both teams found it troubling to convert on the offensive end of the court, especially beyond the three point arc. The Anteaters only hit one of six three pointers, while LMU missed all of their 11 attempts that half.
LMU started the second half by scoring three points to cut the UCI lead to one, 21-20.
The Anteaters scrambled to regain their momentum. UCI responded to the LMU’s new found aggression with a more dynamic offensive strategy. Greene and Artest both scored field goals with a lay up and a jumper, giving the Anteaters a bit of a cushion in their lead, 25-20.
After a few more shots completed for the Anteater, LMU quickly bounced back by dominating the boards with more aggressive rebounding and plays.
LMU’s new found momentum catapulted them into a 13-2 point run to give them a 35-31 lead.
The Anteaters looked flustered on offense and defense. They went five minutes without scoring a point during LMU’s explosive run that cost them the lead.
With two minutes remaining in the game and down by nine, 50-41, the Anteaters found an offensive groove led by Welp, Artest and UCI redshirt freshman guard Justin Hohn — who made his season debut.
Welp scored his 11th point of the game to kickstart a 7-0 Anteater run. Welp finished with 11 points and a career-high of 19 rebounds, giving him his first double-double of the season.
Following Greene’s third block of the game and Welp’s 19th rebound, Artest hit a three pointer to bring the Anteaters within four points. Greene finished with eight points, four rebounds and three blocks. Artest had seven points.
A steal and a fast break layup by Hohn cut the LMU lead to just two, 50-48, with only 38 seconds remaining.
An unfortunate foul by Greene on LMU’s Scott put the Anteaters in a tough position at the remaining 10 seconds of the game. Scott made one of two free throws, giving the Anteaters one more shot at tying the game and sending it to overtime.
Despite the miracle effort made by the UCI team, a missed hail mary shot attempt by Welp gave LMU the victory, 51-48.
“I’m angry with my team tonight. I’m angry for my team’s inability to get free throw rebounds … If we were to get free throw rebounds tonight we would’ve won the game,” UCI Head Coach Russell Turner said post-game.
Baker led the Anteaters with 12 points, which continues his impressive showing in his first season in Irvine. Hohn scored five points in his season debut.
The Anteaters look to bounce back in their next matchup game against the University of San Diego on Saturday, Dec. 19.
Gina Johnson is a Sports Intern for the 2020 Fall Quarter. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.