Photo Provided by UCI Athletics

The UCI Anteaters Men’s basketball team (6-5, 1-1) fell to the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s Rainbow Warriors (6-5, 2-0), 72-56, at the SimpliFi Arena at the Stan Sheriff Center on Jan. 13.

After having four of their first five Big West match-ups canceled due to COVID-19 concerns, the Anteaters made their way to the islands to take on the Rainbow Warriors.

In the first half, Irvine met a rugged Warrior defense that offset the Anteaters’ offense’s usual rhythm. Whenever UCI’s leading scorer and redshirt senior forward Collin Welp got the ball in the post, Hawaii brought over a double team to make Welp pass the ball out. 

The game was brutal early on, with both teams only managing to score four points each in the first four minutes. The ‘Eaters got a spark of energy when freshman center Bent Leuchten scored two lay-ups in a row to increase the Rainbow Warriors’ lead, 14-10. However, this energy would be short lived as the ‘Bows went on a 10-4 run to extend their lead to double digits, 24-14.

Redshirt junior forward JC Butler knocked down a three, and Welp made a mid-range jumper to cut the lead to 26-21. Hawaii would not let the Anteaters’ run extend, and their sophomore guard Jovon McClanahan splashed a three to re-extend the lead to 29-21. Returning from a broken hand, Irvine’s sophomore guard Dawson Baker hit a “Baker Bomb” to once again cut the Warrior lead to five.

The Anteaters struggled to gain any momentum in the first half and trailed 26-34 at halftime. UCI shot a frigid 36% from the field and turned the ball over seven times, while Hawaii shot 46% from the field and a scorching 55% from beyond the arc. Reigning Big West Player of the Week Welp led the Anteaters with six points, and McClanahan paved the way for Hawaii with nine points.

Returning from halftime, both teams were quick to put out and give energy. Hawaii’s sophomore guard Noel Coleman put up a mid range shot, followed by senior forward Jerome Desrosiers’ three-pointer from deep putting the Rainbows up 39-26. The ‘Eaters were eager to give a response, and sophomore guard DJ Davis was quick on his feet to add three points to the scoreboard. 

The ‘Eaters continued their fight from inside the paint and had big drives in strong to get a shot up. They continued to trail as the ‘Bows responded with three-pointers. 

Coleman delivered two threes back-to-back, keeping control over the game. The score was set at 61-41 with seven minutes left in the half. 

Irvine continued to communicate on the court as they transitioned to a zone defense with little time to spare. The team kept their intensity up throughout the entire game; however, the Rainbows still took the win with 72-56.

Welp led the Anteaters in scoring with 11 points and Baker contributed 10 in his return. For Hawaii, Coleman and sophomore forward Bernardo da Silva were the top scorers — both ended with 16 points.

The Anteaters will return home to the Bren Events Center to play against Cal State Fullerton on Thursday, Jan. 20 at 7 p.m.

​​Angus Wong is a Sports Staff Writer for the winter 2022 quarter. He can be reached at anguscw@uci.edu.

Jazlyn Flores is a Sports Intern for the winter 2022 quarter. She can be reached at jazlynpf@uci.edu.