The undefeated University of California, Irvine team used size to its advantage, beating CSUN’s men’s basketball, 73-63.
The Matadors, now 2-5 in Big West and 7-14 overall, were no match for the two centers on the Anteaters’ roster who were over 7 feet tall, including one who is 7 feet 6 inches. While the two played a close game in the first half, midway through Irvine took the lead and never relented.
“You can’t worry about getting your shot blocked; you have to finish the shots,” said head coach Reggie Theus. “If you go in, thinking about throwing it a bit higher or doing something a bit more, you miss the shot.”
The Matadors showed fight towards the end of the game and were able to cut a 24-point lead to 10 points by game’s end.
Junior guard Aaron Parks was the Matadors’ leading-scorer with 17 points on 8-of-13 shooting from the field.
“I think we played hard and we fought to the end,” Parks said. “Once we got those two technical fouls that’s when they went on that run and it was hard to come back from that.”
Senior forward Tre Hale-Edmerson pitched in with 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting to go along with seven rebounds and four assists.
“We needed to buckle-down a little bit harder, get a little bit grimier and dirty,” Hale-Edmerson said in response to the team’s play.
As a team, the Matadors didn’t shoot well from the field, at 41.3 percent compared to UCI’s 51.8 percent.
After UC Irvine took a 4-0 lead to begin the game, the Matadors would battle back.
The Matadors went on a 7-2 run to take a 7-6 lead on a layup by junior guard Kendall Smith with 16:30 remaining in the first half.
At the 9:51 mark, sophomore guard Michael Warren made a layup giving CSUN a 13-12 lead. That was CSUN’s final lead of the game.
After the Matadors remained close for much of the first half, the Anteaters pulled away to take a double-digit lead into the half.
The momentum shift for the Anteaters was started by a technical foul on Hale-Edmerson following an emphatic dunk that cut the Matadors’ deficit to only three with 45 seconds to go in the first half.
“Tre got over-excited, you gotta act like you’ve been there before,” Theus said. “He made a great dunk, it is a highlight, but you don’t bounce up in the guy’s face all the way to half-court.”
Following a last-second half-court three-pointer by UCI, the Matadors trailed the Anteaters 22-33 at the half.
The Matadors started the second half hot, cutting the Anteaters’ lead to just six points, trailing UCI 33-39 after a layup from Parks.
UCI extended the lead by 24 points with 7:13 to go in the second half.
In the final four minutes, the Matadors went on a 19-5 run that would cut the UCI lead from 24 to 10.
Sophomore forward Tavrion Dawson completed one final layup as time expired.
The Matadors play in Riverside Feb. 3 against the UC Riverside Highlanders at 7 p.m.