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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Whicker: UC Irvine basketball keeps playing long game under Russell Turner

IRVINE — There are college basketball teams, and then there are programs. For long years, UC Irvine struggled to tell the difference.

It would pick up a Raimonds Miglinieks here, a Jerry Green there, and prosper for a season or two. When they left, so did the plan.

This is Coach Russell Turner’s 10th season, and after last season’s Big West Conference Tournament championship and NCAA Tournament first-round win over Kansas State, he signed a six-year contract extension. In those years the Anteaters are 53 games over .500 in Big West play.

They had a bumpy nonconference tour this season and came into Saturday night’s game with Cal Poly at 11-9 overall. They did win, but it was a 74-67 ordeal against a club that had only beaten Cal State Northridge, Siena and Vanguard.

It took some mid-range work from Collin Welp and a couple of jumpers from freshman Jeron Artest (yes, Metta World Peace’s son) to keep the Anteaters tied for the Big West lead.

If UCI continues to win, Turner will be nominated whenever an ACC head coaching job opens, since he’s from Roanoke, Va., and was an assistant coach at Wake Forest when Tim Duncan was there.

But with each season, the structure at UCI looks more like a home.

True, there isn’t much fan support or media attention, although an impressive crowd of 3,941 showed up Saturday. The flip side is that there is minimal pressure. Nobody’s calling talk shows when the Anteaters lose at Long Beach State, which happened on Wednesday.

A UC Irvine degree becomes a more precious thing with each passing year and each passing tuition hike. Barring climate change-induced tsunamis, UCI can sell its coastal elite location.

More to the point, the Anteaters’ game plan has become more aligned with what wins in college basketball today. Turner has been able to find the projectable freshman who doesn’t get noticed by the Pac-12 or the national powers, and that freshman more often than not will become a senior.

Only Mamadou Ndiaye, a 7-foot-6 conversation piece as the Anteaters made the NCAA Tournament in 2015, left UC Irvine for the draft before his senior year.

“There aren’t any ninth-graders who grow up wanting to come to UC Irvine,” said Turner, who earned his 200th win as UCI coach on Saturday night. “But doing what we did last year has helped our program. People see us in the airports and they know about the Anteaters now.

“Our staff does a great job locally, nationally, internationally, trying to find players who fit what we’re doing. We always strive to get better, to see how far we can go, but we know who we are.”

Chris McNealy was the first of 23 Anteaters in Turner’s years who came as freshmen and left as seniors. Six of those have redshirted, which doesn’t happen often in the power conferences.

They did lose Max Hazzard to Arizona, as a graduate transfer, after he spent four increasingly good years at UCI, one as a redshirt. That, along with the anticipated loss of Jonathan Galloway as a mid-lane anchor, explains some of UCI’s intermittence this season.

“That didn’t blindside us,” Turner said. “I knew Max had that opportunity and I talked to him shortly after the season was over. I think it’s great that he got a chance to play there. He was a leader for us, but we have a lot of quality in our backcourt. We’ve played well, but like a lot of teams, we’re trying to deal with inconsistency.”

Four Anteaters have been redshirted, including Welp, probably the best sixth man in the Big West, and center Brad Greene.

Turner found Greene in Lone Pine, within sight of the summit of Mount Whitney. Greene grew up on the Paiute-Shoshone reservation, and he has been getting slimmer and stronger in his years of work against UCI’s big-man variety pack, and he’s listed at 6-foot-11 and 280 pounds. Some games are better than others for Greene, but against Hawaii he grabbed 21 rebounds in 26 minutes, a record at the Bren Center, which opened in 1986. Greene also scored 13 that night.

“I told him later that it’s the best rebounding performance I’ve been involved with since Duncan,” Turner said.

UCI’s core still consists of guards and boyhood friends Evan Leonard and Eyassu Worku, plus power forward Tommy Rutherford and swingman John Edgar Jr. That’s four seniors who came in together, put in hundreds of practices and weight room sessions together, and will go out together.

Not many college players are so in tune with the straight and narrow. But that’s the thing about home: The longer you stay, the slower you leave.

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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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UC Irvine enjoys an easy home opener before string of away games

IRVINE — With road games against the likes of Colorado, TCU and Boise State on the horizon, the UC Irvine men’s basketball team enjoyed a less-taxing night in its home opener.

Collin Welp had 18 points and Aiden Krause had a career-high 15 to lead UCI to a 98-52 victory over the NAIA’s Life Pacific University on Tuesday night at the Bren Events Center. Welp was 7 for 10 from the floor and grabbed five rebounds in 17 minutes, while Krause was 5 for 6 from the floor with seven rebounds.

The Anteaters (2-1) bounced back after having their nine-game road win streak snapped with a 77-73 loss at Pepperdine on Saturday. The last time UCI had lost a road game was Dec. 29, 2018 at Pacific.

Brad Greene scored 13 points and tied his career-high with 10 rebounds and Eyassu Worku added 12 points and seven assists in 18 minutes, as the Anteaters hit 39 of 72 from the field (54.2 percent), held a 54-24 rebounding advantage and outscored their significantly shorter GSAC opponent from San Dimas 56-2 in the paint.

Colin Cunniff had 10 points for Life Pacific (2-2), which was 12 for 42 (28.6 percent) from 3-point range.

The Anteaters play their next five games away from home, beginning Friday at 6 p.m. at Boise State. They follow that with games at Colorado on Monday, at TCU on Nov. 21, then a pair of neutral-court games in Las Vegas against Detroit Mercy and Louisiana on Nov. 24 and 26, respectively.

UCI won’t play in the Bren Center again until Saturday, Nov. 30 against Eastern Michigan, when the Anteaters will retire the jersey of former standout and current Washington Wizards coach Scott Brooks.

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UC Irvine erases 15-point deficit to edge San Diego in season opener

SAN DIEGO — Evan Leonard made all 10 of his free-throw attempts and scored 19 points as UC Irvine rallied for a 76-73 victory over San Diego on Tuesday night in the nonconference season opener for both teams at Jenny Craig Pavilion.

Tommy Rutherford, playing in his hometown, scored 16 on 6-of-7 shooting from the floor for the Anteaters, while Collin Welp scored 13.

Braun Hartfield topped the Toreros with 21 points and eight rebounds. Freshman Marion Humphrey added 14 points, while Joey Calcaterra scored 12 but missed all six of his 3-point tries.

San Diego led by 14 at halftime before being UCI turned to a familiar template, ratcheting up its defense and outscoring the Toreros 42-25 after the intermission.

UCI held the hosts to 23.1 percent shooting (6 for 26) in the second half, but USD was still able to stay in front for much of the second half.

The Anteaters trailed 61-46 with 13:10 remaining before a Rutherford jumpshot started a 15-1 run that got them back in the game. They pulled within 62-61 on an Edgar jumper with 5:55 left, then Leonard forced a turnover and turned it into a fast-break layup to give the Anteaters a 65-64 lead with 4:23 left.

The score was tied three times from there, with USD inching back ahead at 69-68 on a pair of Hartfield free throws with 2:27 left, but Rutherford scored (and drew a foul) off a Leonard assist on the next possession. Rutherford couldn’t convert the and-one opportunity, but UCI used a pair of offensive rebounds to keep the ball at that end of the court until Welp hit a jumper for a 72-69 lead with 2:02 left.

The Toreros missed their next three shots from the field sandwiched around one made free throw, then Eyassu Worku (seven points, five rebounds, three assists) made a pair of free throws to push UCI’s lead to 74-70 with 23 seconds left.

A Hartfield 3-pointer with 14 seconds left cut the lead to one again, but Leonard (six rebounds, three steals) made two more free throws, Hartfield missed a 3-point try in the final seconds and UCI held on.

Edgar finished with eight points and seven rebounds. Rutherford added six rebounds, as UCI outrebounded the hosts 35-26 but committed 16 turnovers and shot just 2 for 11 from 3-point range. UCI shot 47.2 percent (25 for 53) overall while holding San Diego to just 39 percent (23 for 59) overall.

UCI next plays at Pepperdine on Saturday at 5 p.m.

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College baseball: UC Irvine stays in Big West title hunt; UCLA clinches Pac-12 title

UC Irvine scored 11 runs in the first two innings, giving starting pitcher Andre Pallante plenty of cushion to work with as the Anteaters won their series opener against host UC Riverside 11-4 on Thursday night and kept alive their hopes for a share of the Big West Conference title.

UCI’s win, combined with Cal Poly’s 3-0 victory over visiting UC Santa Barbara tightened the conference race heading into the final two days of the season. The 12th-ranked Gauchos (44-8 overall, 18-4 Big West) have a two-game lead over both UCI (36-16, 16-6) and Cal Poly (27-27, 16-6). If Cal Poly beats the Gauchos again Friday and Saturday in San Luis Obispo, UCI can finish in a three-way tie for the title by beating UCR (19-35, 7-15) twice more.

UCI had runners at second and third with one out in the first inning when it took control of Friday’s game. Seven consecutive hits followed, resulting in seven runs and an early exit for UCR starting pitcher Shamus Lyons (3-7).

Mike Peabody and Konnor Zickefoose each singled home runs in the second inning, then Jake Palmer added a two-run single of his own for an 11-0 lead.

Pallante (10-4) blanked the Highlanders until the fifth inning, when a double, a wild pitch and a groundout gave UCR its first run. Pallante held UCR to three runs over his six innings, striking out six against one walk. His 26th career win ties him for sixth with in program history with Glenn Swanson.

Kaz Akamatsu earned his first career save, allowing one run and two hits over three innings. He struck out the side in the eighth.

Palmer went 3 for 5 with three RBIs and a run scored to pace UCI. Adrian Damla (2 for 5, two RBIs, two runs scored), Konnor Zickefoose (2 for 3, two RBIs, two runs scored), Peabody (2 for 5, RBI, two runs scored) and Mikey Filia (2 for 5, one RBI, one run) also had multi-hit days for the Anteaters.

The series continues Friday at 6 p.m. at UCR. Trenton Denholm will start for UCI.

In other games … 

Cal State Northridge 1, Cal State Fullerton 0: Timothy Josten pitched seven scoreless innings (two hits, five strikeouts), but the Titans dropped the opener of their season-ending series on a walk-off passed ball at CSUN.

Blake Doremus led off the bottom of the ninth with a pinch-hit single through the right side. He advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Sean Skelly, then Andrew Lucas stroked a single through the left side of the infield to put runners at the corners with one out. With Wesley Ghan-Gibson at the plate, Fullerton reliever Kyle Luckham threw a pitch outside that catcher Kameron Guangorena could not stop. The ball bounced far enough from home plate for Doremus to dash home with the game’s only run.

Josten, who has allowed just three runs in his last five appearances, retired the final 13 batters he faced.

Mitchell Berryhill went 2 for 4 for the Titans (25-26, 11-11 Big West), raising his batting average to .416, which would be the fifth highest single-season average in program history. AJ Curtis also went 2 for 4, but the rest of the Fullerton lineup was held to one hit by CSUN’s Isaiah Nunez. The senior left-hander tied a career high with eight strikeouts in his 126-pitch outing for the Matadors (23-30, 9-13).

The series resumes Friday at 1 p.m., and the Titans now find themselves needing to win their final two games of the season to avoid finishing with the first losing record in program history.

No. 1 UCLA 4, Oregon 2: Michael Toglia’s two-run home run to left field in the eighth inning proved to be the difference as the top-ranked Bruins took the series opener in Eugene, Ore., and, combined with losses by No. 3 Stanford and No. 11 Oregon State, clinched the Pac-12 title.

Ryan Garcia (9-0) allowed just three hits in seven innings with six strikeouts and three walks for UCLA (46-8, 23-5 Pac-12), and Holden Powell earned his conference-leading 15th save. The Bruins have won nine games in a row and 25 of their past 27.

Ryan Kreidler (2 for 4, run scored), Jake Pries (2 for 4, RBI), Jack Stronach (2 for 4) and Noah Cardenas (2 for 3, RBI) paced the Bruins at the plate.

The series continues Friday at 6 p.m. Oregon is 27-28, 10-18.

USC 2, No. 11 Oregon State 0: John Beller pitched seven scoreless innings, then Chandler Champlain and Chris Clarke retired the final six batters in order as the Trojans (24-28-1, 12-14-1 Pac-12) shut out the Beavers (35-17-1, 20-7) in the opener of their three-game series in Corvallis, Ore.

USC took advantage of Oregon State errors for each of its runs, setting up Tyler Pritchard’s RBI single in the second inning and Matthew Acosta’s RBI single in the fifth.

Beller worked out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the third, getting a strikeout and then a pop-up to end the threat. The lefty also stranded a runner in scoring position in the fifth after a leadoff double and worked around a two-out single in the seventh.

Champlain got a groundout and two fly balls in the eighth and Clarke got a strikeout, fly ball and a grounder in the ninth to earn his seventh save. Brady Shockey helped preserve the shutout with a highlight-reel catch in the ninth, robbing a home run from the Beavers’ Zack Zalesky.

Long Beach State 3, Hawaii 0: Sophomore left-hander Adam Seminaris scattered five singles and struck out seven, facing just three batters over the minimum on his way to a shutout of Hawaii in the series opener at Blair Field. It was the first complete game of Seminaris’ college career and the first of the season for LBSU (12-41, 6-16 Big West).

Seminaris retired the first 10 batters he faced in order and recorded 16 ground ball outs compared to just two in the air. He also pounded the strike zone with 70 of his 94 pitches going for strikes. He also set a tremendous pace, dispatching Hawaii (20-28, 8-14) in just 2 hours, 1 minute.

Junior Jacob Hughey paced the Long Beach offense with his fifth three-hit game of the season. The junior first baseman was 3 for 4 with a double and scored twice. Chris Jimenez and Chase Luttrell had the other two hits for LBSU and Victor Carlino logged a pinch-hit sacrifice fly to record the only RBI of the night.

The series continues Friday at 6 p.m. when Long Beach junior Nick Avila (0-5, 3.99 ERA) squares off with Hawaii’s Aaron Davenport (2-5, 4.80 ERA).

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Brubaker pitches complete game as UC Irvine baseball defeats LBSU Dirtbags

IRVINE – UC Irvine’s Tanner Brubaker and Long Beach State’s Nick Avila went head-to-head in a pitcher’s duel Saturday night at Cicerone Field, the Anteaters getting the win thanks to a ball that rolled about ten feet.

Brubaker won his fourth game of the season and lowered his ERA to 2.04, pitching the Anteater’s first complete game of the season in a 4-1 win, allowing just six hits, not walking anyone and striking out eight.

Avila, making his second start for the Dirtbags, allowed three hits in seven innings and the lone run scored against him cam home on a force play.

Tied 1-1 after 7 ½, the Anteaters rallied against reliever Tyler Gums. With one out, Mikey Filia drew a walk and went to third on Brandon Lewis’ single to left field.

With Adrian Damla at-bat, head coach Ben Orloff called for a safety squeeze. Damla’s bunt slowly rolled toward the pitcher but never reached the grass. Catcher Dominic Campeau stayed home and let Gums make the play, and the pitcher’s throw was too late to get Filia.

“We want to be able to win any kind of game we’re in,” Orloff said after the win that pushed the Anteaters to 20-5 on the season and 4-1 in Big West play. “It was a safety squeeze which can be tough to defend.”

Filia went on contact as the ball rolled toward the mound. “You just trust the play,” the junior center field said.

“You go on contact and run as fast and as hard as you can.

“I thought the pitcher did a good job getting off the mound and to the ball.”

“I’m not sure it was a safety squeeze,” Dirtbags coach Troy Buckley said. “It was just aggressive baseball. Filia did a great getting down the line.”

The bunt made it 2-1, and Christian Koss singled two runs home later in the inning to make it 4-1.

Both coaches praised their starters. Orloff left Brubaker in for nine even though he allowed the leadoff man to reach base in six of nine innings.

“The way he throws so many strikes, he wasn’t going to beat him by issuing any walks even when they had men on base,” Orloff said.

Avila pitched well in a five-inning start last week at Cal. He worked out of a second-and-third and one out rally in the sixth. UC Irvine was able to use a single, two walks and a groundout to nick him for a run in the seventh and tie the game.

“Nick gave us a chance to win, and I think that’s a good step up for him,” Buckley said of the junior right-hander. “That was his longest effort, and it would have been unfair to him if we had asked him to go any longer.”

Long Beach got its run on Calvin Estrada’s first home run of the season, a line drive over the left field wall.

The snake bit Dirtbags (4-25) got the leadoff runner on in the third, fourth, sixth and seventh innings but were unable to push a run across. In the eighth, Kyle Hogan singled, went to second on a bunt and to third on a fly ball, but Jacob Hughey struck out to end the rally.

The Anteaters finally got a run in the seventh. With one out, Mike Peabody singled. Avila then issued his first walk on four pitches to Christian Koss, then was ahead of John Jensen 1-2 before walking Jensen to load the bases.

Avila stayed in and Brooks hit a grounder in the hole a short that resulted in a fielder’s choice and a run to tie the game 1-1.

The Anteaters have gone from the unranked to the No. 19 spot in the latest rankings. They win Saturday clinched the series for them, giving them a series win in all eight they have played this season.

The teams finish the series at Cicerone Field today at 1 p.m.

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March Madness: UC Irvine community rallies behind men’s basketball team

IRVINE – The UC Irvine men’s basketball team made the NCAA Tournament for the second time in the program’s history after winning the 2019 Big West Conference Tournament.

The 13th-seeded Anteaters took a step forward Sunday when they played in the second round of the tournament against No. 12 Oregon in San Jose. UCI upset No. 4 Kansas State in the first round Friday.

The program’s first tournament appearance was cut short with a 57-55 first round loss to Louisville in Seattle, Washington in 2015.

A gathering of UCI supporters came together at the Newkirk Alumni Center on campus to watch their team’s NCAA Tournament game against Oregon. The supporters was made up of current students, staff and alumni.

The UC Irvine fans are excited about the 8-0 scoring run to start the second half against Oregon. #StillHungry pic.twitter.com/7tA6h3hEY9

— Inside SoCal Sports (@InsideSoCalSpts) March 25, 2019

Connor Crowley, a UCI alumnus, credits his time as Peter the Anteater and watching the team’s first appearance as a reason he is a “life long fan.”

“I think win or lose tonight, it was going to be a great day to be an anteater especially being in uncharted territory and never being this far,” Crowley said. “We were so close to beating Rick Pitino and Louisville (in 2015) … to have this opportunity to come back again made it a proud day.”

The watch party allowed for alumnus like Crowley to return to campus and interact with friends such as Fritzi Washington.

“I think it takes something to bring the community together and I am really proud to see this milestone,” Washington said. “I think having this moment and this second round game is big enough.”

UCI was the last California representative in the 2019 tournament after St. Mary’s lost to Villanova in the first round.

More reaction:

Thanks for the warm welcome back to the hotel @uciband ☺pic.twitter.com/V7amdRaL28

— UCI M Basketball (@UCImbb) March 25, 2019

Congratulations on an extraordinary season, @ucimbb! #ucipride #MarchMadness2019 https://t.co/JZmObXTrtY

— City of Irvine (@City_of_Irvine) March 25, 2019

Couldn’t be more proud of my guys. Fought til the end and I couldn’t be more happy to be an Anteater. Til next time #zotzotzot

— Dominique Dunning (@niquedunning) March 25, 2019

Congratulations to my Eaters for an exciting and historic season and representing the school well. Thank you @UCImbb for allowing me to live vicariously through you. Much love!!! #togetherwezot #stillhungry #proudalum #eaternation

— Jerry Green (@IAMrgreen) March 25, 2019

“We did something special this season. So, while we lost tonight it feels to me in many ways that we won.”

Head coach Russ Turner on historic run for @UCImbb coming to a close after 2nd round loss to Oregon in @marchmadness.

— Kristin MacDougald (@KMacDougald) March 25, 2019

We’re just getting started @UCImbb — helluva season. Proud to be an Anteater! Y’all put us on the basketball map this year. Congrats on a historical season and here’s to many more more. #StillHungry #ZotZotZot

— Rahul Mangalore (@Rahul_Mangalore) March 25, 2019

Good Effort @UCImbb . You should be nothing but proud for reaching record new heights for our team this year.

— zεεsнαη (@QadriZee) March 25, 2019

Congrats on a great season, @UCImbb. Way to represent for the 949. https://t.co/TLiv78d8lx

— Kyle Bunch (@bunch) March 25, 2019

Proud of my anteaters @UCImbb. Insane we came back at the half to take the lead. But @OregonMBB just killed us on 13of 25 on 3pt shots. #goeaters till next year. pic.twitter.com/2LlthvVksY

— Peter Pham (@peterpham) March 25, 2019

Congrats to @UCImbb for a great run… Proud to be an anteater! #UCIPride #togetherwezot #UCIalum @UCIAthletics @UCIAA @PeterTAnteater @UCIrvine pic.twitter.com/8tfIJQiTrl

— Melissa Mecija (@10NewsMecija) March 25, 2019

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Whicker: UC Irvine finds itself in a different weight class in loss to Oregon

SAN JOSE – Some seeds are harder to chew than others.

Oregon came into SAP Center with a choir of long-armed jumpers who would look right at home on an NBA bench. It also had playmaking guard Payton Pritchard and a scrambling, feisty graduate transfer from Texas A&M-Corpus Christi named Ehab Amin, who couldn’t do anything wrong if he tried.

This was the 12th seed in the South Regional of the NCAA Tournament. Often, the 12th seed is a scruffy band from some Eastern gym that comes into this event with great ambition but little reason. Oregon looked and played more like a 5 seed, except that it blew out Wisconsin, the 5 seed, on Friday.

Oregon wasn’t a good matchup for UC Irvine Sunday and might not be for anybody. The Ducks survived a UC Irvine charge at the beginning of the second half and won, 73-54, sending the Anteaters home with a 31-6 record and the bittersweet assurance that they lost to a big-league team.

“They played at an incredible level,” said Russell Turner, the UCI coach, who was feisty as ever in the highest-profile game in school history. “They made a bunch of big shots at the end of the shot clock. We figured that some plays would be decided then, and they were. Maybe we were a little late getting out on their shooters at times, I don’t know.

“They sped us up and we made some untimely turnovers. We had 15 of them at the game and that doesn’t count some of the times we served up layups for them (eight blocked shots) to run out on.”

That said, it didn’t seem like a 19-point game. It was a 12-point game at halftime, even though UCI was actually winning the boards, thanks to Jonathan Galloway’s dogged work in his final college game.

But then Robert Cartwright, the grad transfer from Stanford who has been so instrumental these past two weeks, worked his way free for a 3-pointer to open the second half. The Anteaters rode that energy to a 12-0 run, culminating in a drive and a basket for Cartwright that began at the mid-court line.

Oregon missed its first 11 shots of the second half. UCI was owning the loose balls. Spencer Rivers took a charge, Tommy Rutherford converted two buckets inside. The Big West champs were up 37-35. Nobody else in the tournament was playing. Everybody in America who wasn’t already sated with basketball was tuned in.

“Then they started playing better defense,” Galloway said. “They were making us uncomfortable, and they were hitting shots, and we weren’t on them.”

Amin, who hit all four of his 3-pointers, got it started with a longball, 7:34 into the second half. Then he took a charge from Rivers. Then Louis King struck for another three. After Evan Leonard responded for the Anteaters, Oregon ran off seven more points, with Pritchard gaining his footing, and after it got to 55-47, Amin hit a three as he was falling into his own bench. It took all that to finally dissuade the Anteaters.

“I’m not sure he called it but he’ll take it!” 😂

Oregon is rolling to take an 11 point lead!#MarchMadness pic.twitter.com/93MXSFidOY

— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) March 25, 2019

King wound up with 16 points, and he no doubt enjoyed each one after listening to some pointed barbs from Turner.

In the handshake line, the Oregon forward and the Anteaters’ coach stopped and chatted. What happened?

“During the first half I was saying for us to double-team Queen,” Turner said of King. “I was trying to get into his head, calling him Queen. I thought it might irritate him, but he’s like the queen in chess, he’s that important to their team.

“It bothered him, but he came back really strong. And he had a thing or two to say back to me. So I wanted to tell him I did it out of respect. They were right in front of us, so I utilize my voice as best I can to help my team.”

Turner probably hasn’t heard the last of this incident. On the other hand, he did come clean about it, unlike  Mike Krzyzewski two years ago, when the Duke coach badmouthed Oregon’s Dillon Brooks in the handshake line at Honda Center and then denied he said it, until the tape came out.

Maybe Turner just knew it might take psychological warfare. Oregon is under-seeded because of injuries and some mediocre play in December and January. It was 15-12 at one point and lost two apparently safe leads to UCLA. But the Ducks certainly will pass the eye test against anyone they play, including Virginia on Thursday night in Louisville.

“They’re going to be a tough out,” Turner said. “They’re a problem to play because they’re unusual.”

So was UC Irvine. With five rotation players returning for 2019-20 and with a solid program in hand, maybe the sight of Anteaters in March won’t be.

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