Senior Darren Fells led the way with 18 points and nine rebounds, five assists and three steals, while sophomore point guard Michael Hunter had 18 points, tying a career high, and senior Patrick Sanders added 16 points in front of a homecoming crowd of 3,173.
Hunter, who bounced back from a groin injury suffered late in Thursday’s win over visiting Long Beach, made a four-point play with 4:34 that helped stave off Northridge’s best late charge.
Senior guard Marcus McIntosh and sophomore forward Chad DeCasas chipped in nine points apiece for the winners.
Cal State Northridge fell to 19-8, 11-3, sustaining its most lopsided loss since an 85-59 setback to Gonzaga on Dec. 8.
The win extended UCI’s winning streak to a season-high three.
The Anteaters opened a 39-29 halftime lead behind Fells, who was five of five from the field to help the hosts shoot 57.7% from the field (15 of 26) before intermission. Fells was also two for two from the foul line in the first 20 minutes to enter the second half with 12 points.
The Anteaters used a 9-0 run that included a three-pointer by DeCasas to take a 33-21 advantage with 5:58 left before intermission.
UCI opened the second half on a 10-4 spurt to open a 49-33 lead, but the Matadors chipped away over the next nine minutes. And when junior guard Deon Tresvant netted back-to-back three-pointers with 8:34 remaining, the visitors had pulled within 58-50, prompting a UCI timeout.
Jonathan Heard followed with a layin and, after Fells drained a pair of free throws, junior Tremaine Townsend followed a layin by teammate Josh Jenkins with a three-pointer from the top of the key to pull within 60-57 with 5:18 left.
But Hunter countered with a four-point play and Sanders then netted back-to-back jumpers to cap an 8-0 run and the Anteaters were never threatened again.
Big West Conference
UC Irvine 82, Cal State Northridge 66
CSN – Heard 6, Mels 5, Townsend 11, Jenkins 13, Miller 6, Tresvant 18, Chitwood 5, Haynes 2.
3-pt. goals – Tresvant 4, Chitwood 1, Mels 1, Jenkins 1, Townsend 1.
UCI – Sanders 16, DeCasas 9, Fells 19, McIntosh 9, Hunter 18, Bland 5, Rembert 4, Lauer 2.
3-pt. goals – Hunter 2, Sanders 1, DeCasas 1, Bland 1.
Halftime – UC Irvine, 39-29.
BARRY FAULKNER may be reached at (714) 966-4615 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.