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UPDATED: UC Irvine denies Warriors, 74-60

Photo courtesy Shane Rodrigues

Out-glassing Hawai’i in a big way, UC Irvine flexed its muscle Saturday night and denied the visiting Warriors, 74-60, to win its Big West Conference men’s basketball opener.

A crowd of 2,938 at UCI’s Bren Events Center and a live streaming audience on ESPN3 watched Collin Welp score a game-high 18 points and grab five rebounds and Evan Leonard add 14 points and four boards as the defending league champion Anteaters improved to 9-8 overall. Brad Greene added 13 points and 21 rebounds for UCI, which out-rebounded UH overall, 49-34.

Samuta Avea scored 14 points and grabbed five boards and Eddie Stansberry added 11 points for the Warriors, who fell to 10-6, 1-1.

The Anteaters led 11-0 in the game’s opening minutes and trailed only briefly after Hawai’i took a 22-21 lead late in the first half. UC Irvine opened the lead to 16 points to open the second half and the Warriors could only get as close as 50-46 with 10:10 remaining after a layup by Drew Buggs — his first points of the game. But Welp answered with a 3-pointer from the left wing to ignite an 8-0 run capped by Austin Johnson’s free throw to make it 58-46 with 7:44 left.

UH twice cut the lead to eight points soon after thanks to 3-pointers by Stansberry and Avea, but that was as close as the Warriors would get.

Photo courtesy Shane Rodrigues

Stansberry later drained a 3 to cut it to 69-60 with 2:02 remaining, but that ended Hawai’i’s scoring as Reed answered with a putback 20 seconds later and Leonard provided the dagger with his 3-pointer from the right corner to make it 74-60 with a minute left. 

“It was disappointing to spot them an 11-0 lead to start the game, and we had some brutal two-to-four-minute stretches that good teams can take advantage of,” Warriors coach Eran Ganot said in a postgame ESPN 1420AM radio interview. “And they did.”

Despite the sluggish start, UH clawed its way back and eventually took the lead at 22-21 on Avea’s 3-pointer from the left wing with 6:10 remaining in the first half, but that would be the Warriors’ final field goal of the period as the Anteaters roared back to end the half with a stunning 18-3 run to take a commanding 39-25 lead into the locker room.

UCI out-rebounded Hawai’i, 24-14, in the first 20 minutes, and Buggs was limited to only seven minutes after picking up two early fouls. However, Justin Webster came off the bench in place of Buggs and scored nine points on 4-of-6 shooting. 

As a team, the Warriors made only 8 of 25 field goals (32 percent) in the first half, and starting power forward Zigmars Raimo — who entered the night averaging 9.3 points and 7.5 rebounds per game — was shut out after missing his only field goal attempt and notched only one rebound. He finished with only one point, on a free throw with 2:29 left in the game.

“For the most part, we didn’t look at the rim much,” Ganot said. “And we had a bunch of lack-of-execution plays.”

Photo courtesy Shane Rodrigues

A basket by Leonard opened the second half and gave the Anteaters their biggest lead at 41-25, but UH again crept its way back and eventually closed it to 50-46 after Buggs weaved his way through the lane and squeezed in a tight double-clutch layup with 10:10 remaining. 

UC Irvine’s 8-0 run followed, but the Warriors hung around and stayed within striking distance until finally suffering through the two-minute drought to finish the game.

“A big difference in the game was that they got offensive rebounds, and we didn’t,” Ganot said. “Our defense was a little better, and I’ll take that improvement, especially on the road. That’s why we were still in this game. But it’s tough when we make them take a tough shot, they get the rebound and put it in.”

Particularly stunning was the performance by Greene, who entered the evening averaging seven points and six rebounds per game. His 21 boards was at least seven more than any Hawai’i opponent this season.

Photo courtesy Shane Rodrigues

“I don’t know if we’ve ever seen that against us,” Ganot said. “We’re usually pretty good on the glass, but we weren’t today … But (Greene) stepped up tonight, give him credit.”

The Anteaters also beat UH soundly at the free throw line, converting 17 of 22 attempts (77.3 percent) compared to just 11 of 20 (55 percent)  for Hawai’i.

The Warriors will be back at the Stan Sheriff Center for their Big West home opener versus Cal Poly San Luis Obispo at 8 p.m. Thursday.

“We’re looking forward to getting back to work,” Ganot said. “We got exposed in some areas, and that’s not to blame anyone or point fingers … but we’ve got to fix it because we don’t want what happened to us tonight to happen again in the future.”

CLICK HERE to view boxscore

CLICK HERE to view more photos

Big West Conference
Saturday’s Results

Long Beach State 55, at UC Santa Barbara 52
at UC Riverside 65, Cal State Fullerton 59
at Cal Poly 74, CSUN 56
at UC Irvine 74, Hawai’i 60


5 Comments

  1. Turnstile was only 693. Zigs should take the medium range shots, when he is open.
    Greene set an arena record with the 21 rebounds.

  2. Irvine’s defense is pretty solid. Hopefully we’ll be ready for
    Them at home next time. Good to see Webster stepping up
    And playing with confidence.

  3. Hey islandman, where did you find the turnstile number because I don’t think that’s right? If you look at the pictures there is lots of people in the stands and looks like more than 693. I think you might be seeing the wrong info because the game before this at Fullerton had attendance of 693. I don’t think the two games would be exactly the same.

  4. Chuck, i got it from the newspaper print edition box score, but it could be a mistake as you say.

  5. The print edition box score for Hawaii vs UCI

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