Cal State Fullerton women avenge earlier losses to CSUN in Big West tourney opener

LONG BEACH — Cal State Fullerton junior Taylor Turney had to make a frantic phone call a few hours before Tuesday’s Big West Conference women’s basketball tournament game against Cal State Northridge.

She had to call her parents, who were driving into Southern California from their home outside of Las Vegas. The conference decided Tuesday afternoon to prohibit spectators at all of this week’s men’s and women’s tourney games because of the coronavirus threat.

“I heard at practice,” she said. “What? No fans? My family was driving in. They were in Barstow and turned around. My mom was crying, but I think she’ll be OK.”

No doubt. Turney had a brilliant effort in the sixth-seeded Titans’ 67-52 first-round win at the Walter Pyramid, scoring 27 points on 10-of-19 shooting with three 3-pointers and nine rebounds to advance the team to a Wednesday quarterfinal against fourth-seeded Hawaii.

It was the first tourney win for Fullerton since 2015, on the heels of the program’s first winning season since 1991. The Titans snuffed out a seventh-seeded CSUN team that had swept the two regular-season meetings, this time holding the Matadors to 31 percent shooting and forcing 13 turnovers.

Turney stepped up on a night when Big West Player of the Year Raina Perez had shooting issues early but finished with 14 points, 11 assists, four steals and seven rebounds.

“It’s another step in learning how to win,” Fullerton head coach Jeff Harada said. “We lost the last two regular-season games and missed a chance to lock up the No. 2 seed, but it says a lot about the maturity of this team in learning how to win big games and put losses behind you.”

Fullerton (17-13) scored 32 of its 67 points in the paint and turned the ball over just seven times. Forwards Aimee Book (12 points, 10 rebounds) and Carolyn Gill (10 points, 3 blocked shots) also contributed.

Meghann Henderson led CSUN with 15 points and seven rebounds.

“They did a very good job tonight,” CSUN coach Justin Flowers said. “We had some defensive breakdowns and gave up too many easy field goals. It was different than the first two games.”

Perez and Turney have made a huge impact on the Titans’ program. Harada had to build a team from scratch and hit the transfer portal to find Perez, who started her career at Northern Arizona, and Turney, who started at San Jose State.

“They put a lot of emphasis on me tonight,” Perez said, “but you can impact the game in other ways. I started looking for my teammates instead of worrying about my shot. It was great to see the team pick me up.”

The conference decision to shutter the game from fans was a response to the growing number of coronavirus breakouts in Southern California. Only team personnel, game management, the media and a handful of ancillary personnel were in the Pyramid.

The first game between host Long Beach State and Cal Poly had an unusual feel. The second game, which didn’t start until nearly 9 p.m., was a bit more eerie, with the voices of coaches and the ESPN broadcast team the dominant sounds.

“It made it easier for me to talk to the defense,” Harada said. “I’m not sure if it help or hurt. I’m sure we had some fans who were sad because we’ve drawn a nice following this season.”

“It was awkward not having fans at the game, but in the end, the game’s the same,” CSUN’s Henderson said.

“I’m a coach. It didn’t affect me at all,” Flowers said. “I’m really not sure it was a big deal. It’s not a completely foreign thing for us when we play home games like this when (no) students are in school.”

Eighth-seeded Cal Poly will meet third-seeded UC Irvine in the first quarterfinal on Wednesday at 6 p.m. followed by Fullerton and Hawaii at approximately 8:30 p.m. The semifinals are Friday afternoon at the Honda Center, with the championship game scheduled for Saturday at 3 p.m., also at the Honda Center.

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Elijah Harkless, CSUN rally past UC Irvine, spoil Anteaters’ Senior Night

  • UC Irvine’s John Edgar Jr. dribbles past CSUN’s Darius Brown II during Wednesday’s Big West Conference game at the Bren Events Center. (Photo by Drew A. Kelley, Contributing Photographer)

  • UC Irvine’s Evan Leonard pushes past CSUN’s defense and scores two during Wednesday’s Big West Conference game at the Bren Events Center. (Photo by Drew A. Kelley, Contributing Photographer)

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  • CSUN’s Lamine Diane tries to score two against UC Irvine but is fouled during Wednesday’s Big West Conference game at the Bren Events Center. (Photo by Drew A. Kelley, Contributing Photographer)

  • UC Irvine’s Eyassu Worku maneuver’s past CSUN’s defense and scores during Wednesday’s Big West Conference game at the Bren Events Center. (Photo by Drew A. Kelley, Contributing Photographer)

  • CSUN’s Darius Brown II handles the ball against UC Irvine during Wednesday’s Big West Conference game at the Bren Events Center. (Photo by Drew A. Kelley, Contributing Photographer)

  • CSUN’s Brendan Harrick passes the ball to Lamine Diane who scores two against UC Irvine during Wednesday’s Big West Conference game at the Bren Events Center. (Photo by Drew A. Kelley, Contributing Photographer)

  • UC Irvine’s John Edgar Jr. pushes past CSUN’s defense during Wednesday’s Big West Conference game at the Bren Events Center. (Photo by Drew A. Kelley, Contributing Photographer)

  • CSUN’s Lamine Diane drives toward the basket as UC Irvine’s Collin Welp defends during Wednesday’s Big West Conference game at the Bren Events Center. CSUN won 72-70. (Photo by Drew A. Kelley, Contributing Photographer)

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IRVINE — It’s true that UC Irvine entered its Big West Conference men’s basketball game against visiting CSUN on Wednesday having clinched the outright championship and top seed for next week’s conference tournament.

But the Matadors entered as one of the conference’s top teams – tied for second with two others – so the last thing the Anteaters wanted was to go into the conference tournament on a losing note against a quality team they could soon see again.

But that’s what happened as CSUN upset UC Irvine 72-70 before 2,954 at Bren Events Center.

The score was tied 68-68 with 2:18 to play, but the Anteaters’ only points the rest of the way came on a basket by Brad Greene with 55 seconds left. But that only pulled them within 72-70 because by then the Matadors had made four free throws – two each by Terrell Gomez and Elijah Harkless – on one-and-one opportunities for a 72-68 lead.

UCI (21-11 overall, 13-3 Big West) had a shot at the end after CSUN’s Lamine Diane missed the front end of a one-and-one with 30.3 seconds to play. But 3-point attempts by Evan Leonard (with about seven seconds left) and John Edgar Jr. (at the buzzer) did not fall.

The score was tied 35-35 at halftime, which was something for the Anteaters because they trailed 20-4 less than seven minutes into the game.

Although UCI already sealed its No. 1 spot in the conference tournament, the Matadors are battling to get the No. 2 seed.

UCI’s regular season is over, but CSUN has a home game left Saturday against Hawaii.

Harkless led the Matadors (14-17, 9-6) with a game-high 30 points and was thrilled to play such a big role in a huge win.

“I just think it was big for us to come in here and beat them in their place,” he said.

It’s also something the Matadors can take with them into the conference tournament.

“Yeah, I definitely agree,” said Harkless, who also grabbed seven rebounds. “I think just don’t get too high, don’t get too low; that’s with us. They’re another team, just like us. We don’t get afraid of nobody. We came out and beat them and that showed that we have courage.

“They came and put it on us by 30 the first time.”

UCI defeated the Matadors 87-64 on Feb. 22 at CSUN.

Anteaters coach Russ Turner was displeased, to be sure. He gave credit to the Matadors, but …

“We got out-played on our court on Senior Night,” he said. “That’s on us, that’s on me and that’s on all of us. And that’s disappointing. But that’s why you play the games and that’s why the games are interesting.

“We gave in to softness and I thought selfishness tonight and that’s disappointing at this stage for this group who’s been so good throughout their career.”

When the Anteaters bolted to a nine-point lead early in the second half, they had all the momentum. UCI was still ahead by nine at 55-46 with 12:54 to play before the Matadors began their comeback with a 3-pointer by Gomez (12 points) and a put-back by Harkless. A 15-footer by Harkless gave CSUN a 63-61 lead with 5:42 left.

Harkless was 12 for 19 from the field.

Greene led UCI with 14 points and 11 rebounds, Evan Leonard and Collin Welp scored 13 apiece and Tommy Rutherford had 12 points.

Welp didn’t like the way his team came began.

“We came out slow and we didn’t come out doing what Coach Turner coached us to do,” he said. “And it showed, I thought.”

Leonard said when his team took a nine-point lead in the second half, it might have been guilty of taking its foot off the gas.

“Yeah, we definitely let up, I feel like, as a team,” he said.

He also noted his team struggled to defend Harkless.

Turner had an interesting thought when he was asked if his team was not ready to play.

“I think we were probably too ready, if there is such a thing,” he said. “We were maybe over-stimulated or something, I don’t know. It’s not easy to come and perform on Senior Night.

“I think we had such an easy performance against (CSUN) the first time we played them, that maybe there was an expectation that tonight would be a celebration and not a competition. And credit to Northridge, they were good.

“But the formula when we’ve looked really poor is that we settle for jump shots early in possessions that put our transition defense in peril and that’s exactly what we did tonight early in the game and then again when we allowed them to make a big run on us in the second half after we had built a lead doing what we prepared to do.”

Diane contributed 18 points and eight rebounds for CSUN.

Eyassu Worku was held to eight points on 3-for-15 shooting, including a 2-for-8 mark from 3-point range. UCI missed five of its last six shots from the field, four of them from beyond the arc.

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Cal State Fullerton gets big game from Johnny Wang in loss at Hawaii

HONOLULU — Junior forward Johnny Wang scored a career-high 21 points, but Cal State Fullerton fell behind by double-digits early in the second half and couldn’t erase the deficit in a 70-59 loss to Hawaii on Thursday night at the Stan Sheriff Center.

Fullerton (10-18 overall, 5-8 Big West Conference) trailed just 38-36 at halftime, but the Rainbow Warriors (16-11, 7-6 Big West) extended the margin to 46-36 less than four minutes into the second half, and the Titans never got closer than six the rest of the way.

Fullerton had 22 turnovers (14 before halftime), which Hawaii converted into 18 points, and was outscored by nine points at the free-throw line (22-13).

Fullerton shot 20 for 41 (49 percent) overall, including a 6-for-18 mark (33 percent) from 3-point range, but the Titans were just 13 for 22 at the foul line (59 percent). Hawaii, which swept the season series from the Titans, shot 43 percent (22 for 51), and just 4 for 13 from beyond the arc but converted 22 of 27 free-throw attempts.

Wang finished 7 for 9 from the field and 6 for 6 from the free-throw line and also grabbed five rebounds. Senior guard Brandon Kamga had 12 points (eight in the first half) and three rebounds but struggled with turnovers and fouled out in 36 minutes. Senior forward Jackson Rowe had 13 points and three rebounds. Sophomore guard Wayne Arnold contributed eight points off the bench, all in the first half.

Drew Buggs paced Hawaii with 20 points. He opened the second half with two free throws and hit a jumper at the 16:07 mark to give the hosts their 46-36 lead.

The Titans trimmed the margin to six again with five minutes to play, but a Buggs jumper made it an 11-point game, Justin Webster followed with a 3-pointer, then Zigmars Raimo added a layup to make it 64-48. Hawaii maintained a double-digit lead the rest of the way.

Eddie Stansberry added 15 points for Hawaii and Weber had 10.

Fullerton next plays at Cal State Northridge on Saturday at 7 p.m., while Hawaii is home against UC Riverside the same night.

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Jules Bernard, defense propel surging UCLA past Utah

  • UCLA forward Cody Riley looks to shoot over Utah forward Riley Battin during the first half of Thursday’s Pac-12 game in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Alex Goodlett)

  • UCLA guard Tyger Campbell drives between Utah forward Timmy Allen, left, and center Lahat Thioune, right rear, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Alex Goodlett)

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  • Utah forward Timmy Allen (1) shoots over UCLA guard Jules Bernard (3) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Alex Goodlett)

  • UCLA guard Jules Bernard, center, rebounds over Utah center Branden Carlson, left, and Utah forward Timmy Allen, right, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Alex Goodlett)

  • Utah guard Rylan Jones, right, scrambles for the ball with UCLA guard David Singleton during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Alex Goodlett)

  • UCLA forward Jalen Hill (24) shoots over Utah center Branden Carlson (35) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Alex Goodlett)

  • Utah guard Both Gach (11) shoots over UCLA guard Jaime Jaquez Jr. (4) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Alex Goodlett)

  • UCLA forward Cody Riley (2) grabs a rebound over Utah forward Mikael Jantunen (20) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Alex Goodlett)

  • Utah guard Alfonso Plummer tries to shoot over the defense of UCLA forward Jalen Hill during the second half of Thursday’s Pac-12 game in Salt Lake City. Hill had seven points, eight rebounds, four steals and three blocked shots in the Bruins’ 69-58 win. (AP Photo/Alex Goodlett)

  • Utah forward Timmy Allen (1) drives as UCLA guard Jaime Jaquez Jr. (4) defends during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Alex Goodlett)

  • UCLA coach Mick Cronin yells to players during the second half of the team’s NCAA college basketball game against Utah on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Alex Goodlett)

  • Utah forward Timmy Allen (1) shoots over UCLA guard Jaime Jaquez Jr. during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Alex Goodlett)

  • UCLA guard Chris Smith (5) attempts to dribble around Utah guard Rylan Jones (15) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Alex Goodlett)

  • UCLA forward Jalen Hill (24) reaches for a rebound next to Utah forwards Mikael Jantunen (20) and Timmy Allen (1) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Alex Goodlett)

  • Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak yells at a referee during the first half of the team’s NCAA college basketball game against UCLA on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Alex Goodlett)

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SALT LAKE CITY — Defense travels.

First-year UCLA coach Mick Cronin has been drilling this mantra into his team since he arrived in Westwood and his players are responding.

“Defensively, we couldn’t have played much better,” Cronin said after his Bruins beat Utah 69-58 on Thursday night.

Jules Bernard scored 14 of his 16 points in the first half as UCLA opened an early lead.

“We were really tuned into the defensive plan and we were just playing physical,” said Bernard, who believes that good defense leads to offensive opportunities.

“I got a steal and a dunk so that got my juices flowing. Then I got a wide-open shot off a great pass from Cody Riley. After that, I was just in the flow,” he said.

Tyger Campbell had 13 points and steadied the Bruins when the Utes made a couple of runs. Chris Smith, David Singleton and Jaime Jaquez each had nine points for the Bruins (16-11 overall, 9-5 Pac-12), who have won eight of their last 10 games. Jalen Hill added seven points, eight rebounds, four steals and three blocked shots.

“We’re getting more confident, more comfortable. Knowing we have our defense to fall back on, that gives us a sort of comfortability,” Bernard said.

Alfonso Plummer scored 16 points off the bench, Timmy Allen had 11 points while Branden Carlson scored 10 before fouling out in just 13 minutes of action for the Utes, who dropped to 10-2 at home.

“A this point it might be time to shake a few things up,” Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said. “We just need to get a little dirty and nasty from time to time. Everybody needs to stay connected and I trust that there’ll be some changes. It’s not a threat, but something that needs to be evaluated.”

The Bruins led by as many 20 after Campbell made a jumper with 11:28 left in the game.

“We got good shots and we weren’t forcing anything. We were getting open shots and letting the game come to us,” Campbell said.

The Utes (14-12, 5-9) began pressing full court and trimmed the lead to single digits in the final two minutes but couldn’t make enough long-range shots – Utah was 3 for 12 from 3-point range – to truly threaten.

UCLA is now 15-0 this season when limiting the opposition to 73 points or fewer and remains within striking distance of the logjam at the top of the conference.

The Bruins set the tone early by making seven of their first eight shots and never trailing.

“Jules Bernard was a key to the win tonight. We had guys with fouls and when that happened Jules took over. Not only on offense, but his defense was tremendous all night,” Cronin said.

UCLA has turned its season around by stopping the way offenses flowed freely on the Bruins early in the season. The key, Cronin and his players say, is being able to defend in the interior.

“Our interior defense, being able to play better one-on-one defense, forces six-to-eight-foot contested shots and then we don’t need to help off 3-point shooters,” Cronin said.

There aren’t any new concepts, just better execution.

“We haven’t changed anything. We are just playing better and putting in more effort,” Singleton said.

The focus and intensity shows Cronin that they have finally found an identity.

“We’ve slowly changed our DNA. We are a defensive team now and that’s how we win,” he said.

As poorly as the Utes have performed away from Salt Lake City, they have been potent at home. Against UCLA’s switching defense, they couldn’t find a rhythm and had 16 turnovers. They even had one of four shot-clock violations coming out of a timeout.

Carlson was in foul trouble throughout the game and Kryskowiak was arguing with the officials throughout. He was whistled for a technical foul with 4:31 left in the first half and tip-toed around the topic of officiating in his post-game press conference since he has already been reprimanded by the Pac-12 Conference this season.

BIG PICTURE

UCLA: The Bruins are peaking at the right time even though they struggled with turning the ball over (19) when the Utes applied pressure. The Bruins ran a deliberate offense against Utah’s matchup zone and got high-percentage shots and then bolstered the attack with 11 offensive rebounds.

Utah: Carlson scored eight points early and supplied the Utah offense with a genuine low-post threat, but once he sat with two fouls, the Utes struggled to get decent looks. As has happened throughout the season, the Utes had another long drought, going almost eight minutes of the first half without a field goal.

UP NEXT

UCLA visits Colorado on Saturday at 1 p.m. PT

Utah hosts USC on Sunday at 3 p.m. PT

A diamond in the rough, or should we say Jule? 💎@jules__bernard lit it up for @UCLAMBB scoring a game-high 16 en route to a 69-58 victory on the road. pic.twitter.com/gOlUEGv9cP

— Pac-12 Network (@Pac12Network) February 21, 2020

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Colin Slater, Long Beach State end UC Irvine’s Big West winning streak

  • Long Beach State guard Chance Hunter #31 drives to the basket in Long Beach on Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020. LBSU won 63-56. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)

  • UC Irvine center Brad Greene #55 shoots over Long Beach State center Joshua Morgan #24 in Long Beach on Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)

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  • Long Beach State guard Colin Slater #14 makes a basket around UC Irvine guard Evan Leonard #14 in Long Beach on Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)

  • Long Beach State center Joshua Morgan #24 blocks a shot by UC Irvine forward John Edgar Jr. #11 in Long Beach on Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)

  • Long Beach State center Joshua Morgan #24 reacts after missing a dunk shot in Long Beach on Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)

  • UC Irvine head coach Russell Turner tries to get his team turned around in the first half in Long Beach on Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)

  • UC Irvine forward Collin Welp #40 works his way around Long Beach State guard Jordan Roberts #2 in Long Beach on Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)

  • Long Beach State forward Romelle Mansel #13 is pressured under the basket by UC Irvine guard Evan Leonard, left, and forward Collin Welp in Long Beach on Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)

  • Long Beach State head coach Dan Monson moves his team up the court after a turnover in Long Beach on Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)

  • Long Beach State guard Chance Hunter #31 is pressured by UC Irvine defenders under his basket in Long Beach on Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)

  • Long Beach State center Trever Irish #32 shoots over UC Irvine forward Austin Johnson #13 in Long Beach on Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)

  • Long Beach State guard Colin Slater #14 drives around UC Irvine guard Isaiah Lee #5 in Long Beach on Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)

  • UC Irvine guard Evan Leonard #14 and forward Austin Johnson #13 along with Long Beach State center Trever Irish #32 watch the ball go out of bounds under the basket in Long Beach on Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)

  • Long Beach State guard Jordan Roberts #2 shoots over the block attempt of UC Irvine forward Tommy Rutherford #42 in Long Beach on Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)

  • Long Beach State guard Chance Hunter #31 has his shot attempt knocked away by UC Irvine center Brad Greene #55 in Long Beach on Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020. LBSU won 63-56. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)

  • Long Beach State center Trever Irish #32 scores over UC Irvine forward Tommy Rutherford #42 in Long Beach on Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020. LBSU won 63-56. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)

  • Long Beach State center Joshua Morgan #24 has his shot blocked by UC Irvine forward Tommy Rutherford #42 in Long Beach on Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020. LBSU won 63-56. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)

  • UC Irvine guard Evan Leonard #14 leaps over a fallen Long Beach State forward Romelle Mansel #13 to grab a loose ball in Long Beach on Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020. LBSU won 63-56. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)

  • Long Beach State guard Chance Hunter #31 has the ball stripped and stolen by UC Irvine guard Eyassu Worku #24 in Long Beach on Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020. LBSU won 63-56. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)

  • Despite being fouled, Long Beach State guard Colin Slater #14 scores as he falls away in Long Beach on Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020. LBSU won 63-56. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)

  • Long Beach State forward Romelle Mansel #13 grimaces as he grabs his hamstring after being fouled in Long Beach on Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020. LBSU won 63-56. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)

  • Long Beach State head coach Dan Monson, left, and UC Irvine head coach Russell Turner greet before the game in Long Beach on Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)

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LONG BEACH — In Hollywood terms, Long Beach State’s 63-56 upset of UC Irvine on Wednesday night at the Pyramid was produced, directed by and starred point guard Colin Slater.

The junior guard had 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting, with four rebounds, three assists, two steals and no turnovers in a game that was littered with them, 16 by UCI and 15 by Long Beach.

Slater had three of the first four Long Beach baskets of the night and had a memorable series of three plays in the second half that turned a tight game into a 10-point LBSU lead and helped the hosts end the Anteaters’ 16-game winning streak in Big West Conference play (and their 14-game Big West road winning streak).

Leading 50-46, Slater slid across the lane for a short-range shot, then drove the basket and launched an off-balance one-hand shot that banked in. On the next possession, he tossed an 18-foot lob to center Josh Morgan for a thunderous dunk and 56-46 lead.

“Colin took charge down the stretch,” LBSU coach Dan Monson said, whose team improved to 7-14 overall, 2-3 in the Big West. “I told the guys that if we don’t start the game fast we’re in for a long haul, and Colin got us that start. There were crucial times throughout the game, on offense and defense, when Colin was the leader.”

Slater’s impact was thorough against a UCI team that likes to establish a rhythm. There were times when the Anteaters (11-9, 3-1) seemed frustrated with outside defense from Slater and his teammates.

“I don’t really care what (the opponent) is feeling, I’m just focusing on us and what we have to do on offense and defense,” he said. “I had to take a moment last week and check my own responsibility as a leader, and I was just focused on playing my best game.”

Slater had help. LBSU’s big men, Romelle Mansel (five points, five rebounds, two blocked shots), Morgan (seven points, six rebounds, two blocks) and Trever Irish (eight points) were active inside against UCI’s fleet of big men. Chance Hunter added 11 points for LBSU, which shot 46.2 percent from the field (24 for 52).

UCI shot a season-low 33.9 percent from the field and lost the rebounding battle (39-28) for the second consecutive game. Evan Leonard had 14 points and Tommy Rutherford and John Edgar Jr. had 10 each. Eyassu Worku was 2-for-10 shooting and leading scorer Collin Welp (14 ppg) was held to two points on 1-for-10 shooting, though he did add team-highs of eight rebounds and five assists.

UCI had not lost a Big West game since Jan. 16, 2019 (to Long Beach) and had not dropped a Big West road game since Jan. 20, 2018 (at UC Santa Barbara).

“Credit to Long Beach,” UCI coach Russ Turner said. “They outplayed us and intimidated us and played harder on the glass.”

UCI did have a lot of shots that rimmed out, but the Anteaters were just 5 for 26 from 3-point range (19 percent) and lost the battle for loose balls.

“We have been shockingly inconsistent at times this year,” Turner added. “We have to be better.”

“We’re a team that’s struggled on offense,” Monson said of his team. “UC Irvine is the gold standard in the league and it’s nice to get back on track against the cream of the league.

“We had a lot of guys contribute, which is what we have to do this season as young as we are. It’s great to see them show what they can do.”

LBSU’s win came on the heels of a pair of close losses, to UC Davis by three and to Cal State Fullerton by four.

The Anteaters got off to an uncharacteristically slow start, missing their first three shots and turning the ball over four times as Long Beach opened a 14-6 lead. UCI scored eight straight to tie the score, and the rest of the half was a back-and-forth, intense physical game with neither team unable to secure a rhythm.

Long Beach led 25-23 at halftime, then scored the first 10 points of the second half, UCI again missing its first three shots and turnovers by Leonard and Edgar leading to fast-break baskets.

UCI drew within four but then committed fouls on four consecutive plays and Long Beach extended its margin back to nine points. A Rutherford basket got UCI within 46-44 with 8:22 left, but Irish hit consecutive short-range jumpers and Slater scored on drives to the basket, the last an off-balance one-handed shot to give Long Beach a 54-46 lead with 3:22 left. Morgan then dunked on a lob from Slater to make it 56-46 with three minutes left.

UP NEXT

UC Irvine hosts Cal Poly on Saturday at 7 p.m. Long Beach plays at UC Riverside on Jan. 30.

Colin Slater with the AND ONE! Beach on top 54-46 as Slater now with 14 and the chance to put the Beach up nine. #GoBeach pic.twitter.com/HhUWCmfnGK

— LBSU Mens Basketball (@LBSUhoops) January 23, 2020

Splash! New career high on this slick move from Trever Irish who now has eight points. Beach up six, just under seven minutes to go. #GoBeach pic.twitter.com/V2NgP5dDtj

— LBSU Mens Basketball (@LBSUhoops) January 23, 2020

Isaiah cuts into the lead!

Catch the game on ESPN3➡https://t.co/NSJIIBck89 pic.twitter.com/TdcxSBiGPa

— UCI Men’s Basketball (@UCImbb) January 23, 2020

Beach on a 10-0 run after this steal and bucket from Colin Slater! The junior leads the Beach with 10 as LBSU on top 35-23 forcing a UCI timeout. #GoBeach pic.twitter.com/xdXHPwxKq4

— LBSU Mens Basketball (@LBSUhoops) January 23, 2020

Hear from Coach Turner following tonight’s game against Long Beach⬇pic.twitter.com/J8fgFWcN1y

— UCI Men’s Basketball (@UCImbb) January 23, 2020

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UC Irvine uses balanced effort to beat Hawaii in Big West opener

  • UCI forward Tommy Rutherford, center, looks for an open teammate after grabbing a rebound between Hawaii guard Drew Buggs, left, and guard Justin Hemsley, right, in Irvine on Saturday, January 11, 2020. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

  • UCI center Brad Greene, right, takes a shot over a Hawaii defender in Irvine on Saturday, January 11, 2020. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

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  • UCI forward John Edgar Jr., left, and forward Austin Johnson, right, reach for the rebound along with Hawaii forward Bernardo Da Silva, center, in Irvine on Saturday, January 11, 2020. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

  • UCI center Brad Greene, left, grabs the rebound over Hawaii center Mate Colina in the second half in Irvine on Saturday, January 11, 2020. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

  • UCI coach Russell Turner reacts to a call by a referee during the game against Hawaii in Irvine on Saturday, January 11, 2020. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

  • UCI forward Collin Welp, right, looks to put up a shot by Hawaii forward Zigmars Raimo in the first period in Irvine on Saturday, January 11, 2020. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

  • UCI center Brad Greene, right, looks to pass the ball after getting his path blocked by Hawaii guard Justin Hemsley in Irvine on Saturday, January 11, 2020. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

  • UCI guard Aiden Krause reacts as the Anteaters score a basket at the halftime buzzer against Hawaii in Irvine on Saturday, January 11, 2020. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

  • UCI center Brad Greene, left, protects the ball from Hawaii guard Samuta Avea under the basket in Irvine on Saturday, January 11, 2020. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

  • UCI guard Aiden Krause, left, goes to congratulate guard Eyassu Worku after his basket at the halftime buzzer against Hawaii in Irvine on Saturday, January 11, 2020. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

  • UCI forward Collin Welp, center, passes the ball as he is double-teamed by Hawaii center Mate Colina, left, and guard Justin Hemsley, right, in Irvine on Saturday, January 11, 2020. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

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IRVINE — Hawaii was picked to finish fourth this season in the Big West Conference men’s basketball preseason media poll. But the Rainbow Warriors have shown they might be a bit better than that.

It then figured that defending champion UC Irvine – tabbed to again win the conference – would not be able to cruise to victory when it hosted Hawaii in its conference opener Saturday night.

Indeed, there was nothing easy about this one. But thanks to a quick start, an 18-3 run to end the first half and the ability to stave off a Hawaii team that crept within four points with just over 10 minutes to play, the Anteaters (9-8 overall, 1-0 Big West) rolled to a 74-60 victory over the Rainbow Warriors (10-6, 1-1) in their conference opener before 2,938 at Bren Events Center.

UCI led 11-0 early and 39-25 at halftime.

Collin Welp came off the bench to lead UCI with 18 points. Evan Leonard had 14 and Eyassu Worku and Brad Greene each scored 13, with Greene pulling down 21 rebounds, a record for a game at the Bren Center, which opened in 1987. It was the most rebounds for an Anteaters player in any game since Bob Thornton had 22 in 1984.

Samuta Avea scored 14 for Hawaii and Eddie Stansberry had 11. That was a key. Stansberry is Hawaii’s leading scorer at 17.4 points per game and he was coming off a 25-point effort in a victory at Cal State Fullerton on Thursday.

Stansberry shot just 3 for 13 from the field against UCI, including 3 of 9 from 3-point range. Leonard was charged with defending him for much of the night.

“We were just going to try to key in on him,” Leonard said. “He scored 25 against Fullerton; we knew that. So we were going to try to guard him as a defense, as a team, so it wasn’t just me out there.”

Anteaters coach Russ Turner liked Leonard’s defense, as well as his desire to share the credit.

“Yeah, we did make it tough for him (Stansberry),” Turner said. “And I give Evan credit for that to start the game. There were a lot of other guys who also executed the game plan we had against him and we always do it as a team on the defensive end, so it’s great for me to hear that Evan gave others credit.”

Greene, a 6-foot-10 junior post, also was very humble when told of his record night on the boards.

“It just goes to show how hard we practice and just how much we all want to compete out there,” he said. “If it wasn’t me, it was going to be somebody else on our team.”

UCI saw its lead cut to 50-46 with 10:07 to play, but a key 8-0 run restored order, giving the Anteaters a 58-46 lead with 7:40 left.

“Well, I mean, that’s what I expect us to do is to be able to respond,” Turner said.

The Anteaters shot 40.6 percent from the field, including 38.5 percent from 3-point range. Hawaii shot just 35.1 percent overall, 34.6 percent from beyond the arc.

UCI outrebounded Hawaii 49-34.

There weren’t many turnovers. The Anteaters had just six, Hawaii eight.

UCI got off to a very quick start. Aiden Krause hit a layup, Leonard a 10-footer, Greene a 6-foot hook shot, Worku made a layup, Leonard one of two free throws and then Krause made two free throws and the Anteaters led 11-0 just 3:20 into the game.

Hawaii finally got on the scoreboard on a layup by Dawson Carper at 16:01.

That was the beginning of a 7-2 run for Hawaii, but the UCI basket during that stretch was a sweet 14-foot jump-hook by Greene that had the fans loudly voicing their approval.

However, the Warriors tied the score at 19-19 and took their first lead (22-21) on a 3-point basket by Avea with 6:05 left in the half.

Undaunted, UCI embarked on a 10-1 run with the final six points of the onslaught coming on 3-pointers by Isaiah Lee and Welp for a 31-23 Anteaters lead.

It didn’t stop there.

After Bernardo Da Silva made two free throws for Hawaii to get within 31-25, UCI scored the final eight points of the half to take a 39-25 lead into the intermission, the Anteaters finishing the half on an 18-3 run.

Welp led UCI with 11 first-half points, Greene had eight.

Stansberry shot just 1 for 7 in the half for the Warriors and had just five points. Hawaii shot just 32 percent in the first 20 minutes.

UP NEXT

UC Irvine next plays at Cal State Fullerton on Wednesday night.

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Guy sinks FTs on disputed foul, Virginia shocks Auburn in Final Four game

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Hard to call Virginia basketball boring after the last two games. And the Cavaliers have pretty much put the choker label to rest, too.

From one-and-done to NCAA Tournament miracle men, Virginia will play for the national title for the first time after pulling off another last-second stunner. Kyle Guy made three free throws with 0.6 seconds left, steadily swishing each one as debate immediately started over the sequence that sent him to the line, and Virginia beat Auburn 63-62 Saturday in the Final Four.

A year after becoming the first No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16, these top-seeded Cavaliers now look like destiny’s team.

“It’s a great story,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. “It is.”

The Cavaliers (34-3) will face Texas Tech on Monday night as the slight favorite to win the tournament.

Bennett has built a powerhouse in 10 years in Charlottesville on a style of play that is often about as exciting as a trip to the campus library. The Cavaliers have gotten straight A’s in the regular season with stingy defense and walk-it-up offense, but NCAA success has been hard to come by. Blown leads and early exits have been their story — never more than when the Cavaliers lost to UMBC, a school known for chess, not hoops.

Something has gotten into these Wahoos the last two weeks, though. They reached the Final Four for the first time since 1984 with a wild buzzer-beater by Mamadi Diakite to send their Elite Eight game against Purdue to overtime. Beating the Tigers took an even crazier finish.

Fifth-seeded Auburn (30-10) had erased a 10-point deficit in the final five minutes and taken a 4-point lead. Heartbreak was again at hand for Virginia.

The Tigers led 61-60 after Guy made an off-balance 3 with 7.6 seconds left. The shot snapped a drought of more than five minutes by the Cavaliers, who then immediately sent Jared Harper to the line.

Harper made one and Auburn, with fouls to give, did so twice. On one of them, it looked as if Ty Jerome might have double-dribbled into a decisive turnover. Jerome also might have been fouled before the mishandle. But there was no whistle for either.

“We knew there was a disruption,” Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said.

With 1.5 seconds left and in need of some magic, Virginia got the ball to Guy in the corner. He turned and fired and Samir Doughty, hands straight up in the air, bumped into Guy’s hip. The shot was short, bouncing off the rim. Game over? Auburn started to celebrate and the PA announcer in U.S. Bank Stadium even announced the Tigers had won.

Guy pulled his jersey over his face. But not in angst. He said he exactly knew why official James Breeding had blown his whistle.

“I heard him call it right away,” Guy said. “That was me focusing.”

Meanwhile, Pearl lost it on the sideline, pumping his fist and screaming.

“We kind of thought we had it sealed,” said Bryce Brown, who led the Auburn comeback with three 3s in the final 4:30. “It’s not why we lost the game. I just didn’t agree with the call.”

Pearl said he didn’t want the final call to define a great game, but he did say the officials seemed to be letting physical play go throughout.

“My advice … if that’s a foul, call it,” Pearl said. “Call it at the beginning of the game, call it in the middle of the game, call it at the end of the game. Don’t call it any more or less at any other time during the game.”

Guy swished the first two free throws to tie it and Auburn called a timeout to ice him. Didn’t work. He hit one more for the lead.

“I just literally told myself that we dream of these moments, and to be able to make one happen was special,” Guy said.

Auburn threw a long inbound pass to Brown, but his desperation 3 was short.

The Cavaliers mobbed Guy on one end. Brown sat on the court, head hanging on the other. Auburn, in the Final Four for the first time, had its 12-game winning streak and season end in a most painful way.

NCAA national coordinator of officials J.D. Collins declined comment on the potential double dribble, but said Breeding’s call was correct.

The foul violated the rule that “verticality applies to a legal position and also to both the offensive and defensive players,” Collins said. “The defender may not ‘belly up’ or use the lower part of the body or arms to cause contact outside his vertical plane or inside the opponent’s vertical plane.”

Jerome scored 21 points for Virginia and De’Andre Hunter had 10 of his 14 in a stellar second half.

Doughty led Auburn with 13 points and Brown had 12 for Auburn, which survived the first round against New Mexico State when Terrell Brown of the Aggies missed two of three free throws with 1.1 seconds remaining in the Tigers’ 78-77 victory.

Auburn wasn’t so fortunate this time, and Virginia, the team that made UMBC a household name — at least for a little while — in the first round of last year’s tournament would not be denied. Being on the receiving end of maybe the most humbling NCAA Tournament upset ever has been Virginia’s cross to bear all season. Even after beating Auburn, the Cavaliers had to recall the feeling of their offseason routine starting unexpectedly early last year.

“I feel like I get asked this question every single round, every round we advance, and every round I say the same thing almost,” Jerome said, “and it feels a little bit sweeter, a little bit sweeter.”

Then Guy said: “Not much to add. Just you guys can ask that question again on Monday.”

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Mooney scores, Texas Tech clamps down in Final Four victory over Michigan State

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — For those who thought Texas Tech only plays defense, it’s time to meet Matt Mooney.

While the Red Raiders were locking down Michigan State on one end, the graduate transfer shooting guard was raining in 3s on the other, lifting Tech one win away from a title Saturday night with a 61-51 victory over the Spartans in the Final Four.

Mooney matched his season-high with 22 points, including three 3-pointers over the span of 3 minutes to give Texas Tech a 13-point lead midway through the second half.

With the kind of ‘D’ Texas Tech plays, it was too much to overcome, and now the Red Raiders are getting ready for another defensive battle, in a Monday final against Virginia, and its vaunted pack line defense. The Cavaliers are a slight 1-point favorite, and the over/under was at 117½ and falling late Saturday night.

Texas Tech wins by doing just enough on the offensive end. On this night, Mooney did the major damage.

“He’s obviously very, very talented, but the thing that impressed me tonight was just his courage, wanting to make those big plays in big moment,” Texas Tech coach Chris Beard said.

Mooney’s first two shots in the stretch capped a 5-for-5 hot streak by Texas Tech (31-6) that stood as the game’s only true blast of offense. His third 3 gave Texas Tech a 48-35 lead with 9:38 left.

Before and after that, it was all about defense — a game filled with air balls, blocked shots and clogged-up passing lanes. At one point, over a two minute stretch late in the first half, eight shots went up. Six of them didn’t touch the rim.

It was, to put it Texas Tech’s way, perfectly ugly.

“It’s like they never make mistakes,” Michigan State forward Kenny Goins said. “They got us kind of caught in that trap today.”

Michigan State (32-7) leaves coach Tom Izzo’s eighth Final Four with its seventh loss — the 2000 title is still the only time the Spartans have taken it all the way under their veteran coach.

But they did not go away easily.

After Mooney put them down by a baker’s dozen, the Spartans trimmed it to 3. Matt McQuaid had a wide-open look from the corner — one of the very few on this night — that would’ve tied it with 1:50 left, but the ball rimmed out and the Red Raiders pulled away.

Jarrett Culver (10 points, five boards) finished it off. He made one free throw on the next trip down, then Norense Odiase swiped the ball from MSU’s Xavier Tillman — one of Tech’s four steals on the night — and the Red Raiders worked the ball to Culver, who made his only 3 to push the lead to 58-51 and start the celebration.

Culver shot 0 for 6 in the first half, and scored six of his 10 points over the last 2:30.

“When you’ve got a whole team that trusts you on the court, you keep shooting with confidence,” he said.

Meanwhile, a defense that led the nation in efficiency and held teams to under 37% shooting this season — second best in the county — held Michigan State to 31.9% from the floor.

Most tellingly, it stymied Big Ten player of the year Cassius Winston. Yes, Winston led the Spartans with 16 points, but it came on 4-for-16 shooting, and he was held scoreless in second half for more than 10 minutes — not perking up until after Mooney had given the Red Raiders their big cushion.

Mooney is the fifth-year senior who made his way to Texas Tech after graduating from South Dakota — the school he transferred to after a rough year at Air Force.

Most all these Red Raiders have a story like that.

Beard is on his 12th stop in a travelogue of a career — and he’s been recruiting grinders like him to help him take this most-unexpected ride.

Culver wasn’t in the top 300 among high school recruits, and chose his hometown college over a few other places. He kept battling despite the rough start, and Texas Tech overcame his cold first half to head to the locker room leading by the not-so-scintillating score of 23-21. It was the lowest scoring first half at the Final Four since the Spartans took a 19-17 lead over Wisconsin in a 2000 slugfest.

“We threw a lot of punches tonight,” Beard said. “We tried a lot of things on defense, and fortunately most of them worked.”

Culver had one block and rim protector Tariq Owens, also a grad transfer, had three more before leaving late in the second half with a leg injury.

Owens came jogging back in toward the end to the cheers of the Texas Tech crowd, which included alum Patrick Mahomes, the high-flying QB for the Chiefs.

“Pretty cool to have the MVP of the NFL on our side, cheering for us,” Mooney said.

Turns out, the quarterback isn’t the only Red Raider who can light up that scoreboard.

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Duke’s Zion Williamson wins AP men’s college player of the year

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Just about everything Zion Williamson did at Duke created a highlight or headline in a spectacle of a season.

The soaring dunks.

The open-court moves more nimble than his 6-foot-7, 285-pound frame should allow.

Even the freak occurrence of one of his feet tearing through its shoe in a fall to the court.

Handling all that attention became maybe the biggest lesson for the freshman, who quickly became the face of college basketball and the game’s biggest star in years — then fittingly finished as The Associated Press men’s player of the year.

“I was comfortable with it because you don’t really have a choice,” Williamson said in an interview with the AP earlier this week. “I think if you try to force it out, then it’s going to bother you. … My mom just told me to look at it as a lot of kids would wish to be in my position, so if it does bother me, I just think about it like that.”

Williamson claimed 59 of 64 votes from AP Top 25 voters before the NCAA Tournament in results released Friday. Freshman teammate RJ Barrett earned two votes as a fellow AP first-team All-American, while Virginia’s De’Andre Hunter, Michigan State’s Cassius Winston and Murray State’s Ja Morant each earned one vote.

Williamson had hoped to be in Minneapolis preparing for Saturday’s national semifinals like Hunter and Winston. But the Blue Devils fell to Winston’s Spartans in the Elite Eight as the top overall seed.

“I was just telling (teammates) don’t let nobody tell you this season was a disappointment, because people have got to understand it’s March Madness,” he said, adding: “I mean, winning the championship is not a cakewalk.”

In a likely one-year college stop for a possible top overall NBA draft pick, the 18-year-old Williamson averaged 22.6 points and 8.9 rebounds while ranking second nationally by shooting 68%. He also ranked among the Atlantic Coast Conference leaders in steals (2.12) and blocks (1.79).

Williamson’s play was marked by breathtaking athleticism to go by, through and over anyone to get the ball (look at his personal-favorite 360-degree dunk against Clemson or his rapid-closeout swat of Hunter’s shot at Virginia for proof).

There was the charisma, too. He projected a self-assured ease amid the crush of postgame interviews, even routinely having walk-on Mike Buckmire join him as a wingman as though bringing his teammate into his unique orbit.

“It’s been remarkable what he’s done,” said North Carolina coach Roy Williams, who recruited Williamson. “There hasn’t been many guys like that to come down the road. So the attention he’s gotten, I think he’d deserved. … He’s driven a different ship.”

That February shoe blowout illustrated just how different.

Williamson missed nearly six full games after injuring his knee in the fall, which had his left foot sticking through the side of his Paul George signature shoe from Nike. The bizarre image wounded Nike’s day-after stock price and had some arguing that he shouldn’t return to protect his pro stock.

That was never an option for Williamson. He returned in the ACC Tournament sporting a reinforced pair of Kyrie Irving Nikes, which followed Nike representatives visiting Duke’s campus to sort out what went wrong.

The unusual moments of stardom didn’t stop there, either.

“Cars will be driving by (on campus) and I mean, they’ll just stop,” Williamson said with a chuckle. “In the middle of the road. And people will jump out of the car and get pictures. I’m looking at my watch, I have two minutes to get to class and my class is a five-minute walk. … I’ll look at them and they’ll be so high, I’m like, ‘Yeah, I got you, I’ll take the picture.”

He also frequently encountered Duke fans waiting near the practice gym for autographs.

“You’ve got 20 minutes before that clock starts for practice, you’ve got like 20 people outside,” Williamson said. “You’re like, ‘I don’t think I can do this.’ So then it comes down to: do I say no? Or do I tell them to wait?

“I’ve been in a lot of situations. Sometimes they understood, other times they weren’t so accepting of it. But I guess that’s part of life.”

Williamson said there’s “obviously a high possibility” he enters the draft but he’s not ready to make anything official as he enjoys being a college student a little longer with plans on taking summer classes toward a degree.

Williamson said he has no regrets, calling the season “the most fun I’ve ever had in my life.”

“My mom would tell me, ‘College is something you don’t want to miss out on’ because not only have I enjoyed the basketball side of coming to Duke, I’ve enjoyed being a student here just as much,” Williamson said. “The relationships I’ve built with the students here — like talking to kids I guess people wouldn’t picture me talking to, hanging out with them — it’s bigger than basketball.”

VOTING BREAKDOWN

  • Zion Williamson, Duke — 59
  • R.J. Barrett, Duke — 2
  • De’Andre Hunter, Virginia — 1
  • Ja Morant, Murray State — 1
  • Cassius Winston, Michigan State — 1

 

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UC Irvine wins 13th consecutive game, earn top seed in Big West tournament

IRVINE – UC Irvine put an exclamation point on one of the best regular seasons in school history Saturday night, beating Cal State Northridge 86-74 at Bren Center to finish league play at 15-1 for the second time in school history and receiving the regular season title trophy from Big West officials after the game.

It was the fourth title in the last six years for the Anteaters, who will go into the Big West Tournament starting Thursday against UC Riverside in the first round looking for three wins, a tourney title and second-ever NCAA tournament berth.

They won the league title by five games over Cal State Fullerton and UC Santa Barbara, who finished 10-6.There was so much to celebrate. The 27-5 record for the season includes the best winning percentage in school history as well, and the most wins in the regular season. The program won 28 games in 2015-16 including postseason victories.

The win was their 13th straight, tying the school record set in 2001-01, and it made Jonathan Galloway the owner of the record for most wins by a player in a career, a week after setting the record for most games played and most rebounds in a career.

“I don’t want to think about that,’’ Galloway said afterwards. “The big goal is still in front of us. It’s great to win the regular season title, but now we need three wins in three games in the tourney. That’s what we really want.’’

Evan Leonard let the Anteaters with 17 points and four assists and Max Hazzard had 16 with five assists.

Tommy Rutherford had 10 and eight rebounds and Galloway eight points and 11 reboundsNorthridge freshman Lamine Diane scored 33 points with 18 rebounds after a slow start, and Darius Brown added 14 points.

“The first 30 minutes we controlled the game with or defense, and we did a much better job handling their talent than the first time we met. We played good basketball, not many turnovers, good shooting percentage.’’

Turner acknowledged that all eight Big West teams in the tourney will hit the reset button now with the tourney on the cusp, but Turner made it clear it’s not a three-win parley, “We’re getting prepared now for one game,’’ he said. “We know better than to get ahead of ourselves.’’

The Anteaters will play the eighth-seed UC Riverside at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Honda Center. The other three games Thursday will be UC Santa Barbara (two seed) vs. Northridge (7) at noon, Cal State Fullerton (3) vs. UC Davis (6) at 2:30 p.m., and Hawaii (4) vs. Long Beach State (5) at 8:30 p.m.

The Anteaters shot 52 percent in the first half while holding Northridge (13-19, 7-9) to 34 percent and bolting out to a 20-point lead at one points.

They led by 22 in the second before the game ebbed and Northridge converted some 3-pointers by Brown and buckets by Diane to get the margin down to ten points late.

“There was a lot of good energy in the building at the start, being senior night with friends and family in the crowd. We played well except for letting down a little in the second half,’’ Galloway said.

Turner started the four seniors in the opening lineup, Galloway, Elston Jones, Spencer Rivers and Robert Cartwright. Rivers had the best start of his career, scoring six points in the first half.

It was close game for nine minutes, the Anteaters holding an 18-15 lead, when they went on a 11-2 run thanks to three 3-pointers, by Evan Leonard from the baseline and Max Hazard twice from the wings to take a 29-12 lead.Cartwright netted a three and the Anteaters went on a 9-0 run with Leonard hitting a 3-pointer to life the push the lead to 20 points at 43-23 three-plus minutes in the half. They settled for a 49-33 edge at the break.

Cal State Fullerton and UC Santa Barbara tied for second at 10-6, Hawaii finished fourth at 9-7, and Long Beach State fifth at 8-8. UC Davis and Northridge tied for sixth at 7-9, ahead of eighth-place UC Riverside (4-12) and last placed Cal Poly (2-14).

“For us, it’s just to keep getting better,’’ Galloway said. “If we do that, we’ll be hard to beat.’’

In other Big West Games Saturday:UC Santa Barbara 92, Cal Poly 82.Hawaii 71, Cal State Fullerton 59.UC Riverside 71, UC Davis 70.

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