Colleges: UCI exceeds expectations

December 20, 2010|By Barry Faulkner,
  • UC Irvine's Daman Starring and the Anteaters visit UCLA on Thursday night.
UC Irvine's Daman Starring and the Anteaters visit… (KENT TREPTOW, Daily…)

One week from its Big West Conference opener, the UC Irvine men's basketball team shares the conference lead in victories with Pacific.

With a 6-5 record heading into Thursday's nonconference clash at UCLA, most would say the Anteaters, under first-year coach Russell Turner, have performed better than preseason expectations.

Even more encouraging would be the fact that junior Eric Wise, a two-time second-team all-conference performer who led the team in scoring, rebounding and assists in 2009-10, has played a full game in only one of those wins.

The Anteaters, in fact, have scarcely had three of their top four big men to this point. Wise strained a hip-flexor in the second game at USC, played sparingly the next game, then sat out six of the next seven. He returned to the starting lineup Saturday at Pepperdine, but had just six points and two rebounds in 17 minutes before fouling out of the 76-69 setback.


Adam Folker, a 6-8 junior who most consider the team's best rebounder, has missed the first 11 games after breaking his hand in an exhibition game.

Maxime Chupin a 6-9 freshman from France, has yet to gain his eligibility. Chupin has not practiced with the team in weeks due to NCAA restrictions, but he impressed in early workouts with his effort, competiveness and ample skills.

It was hoped that word on Chupin's eligibility would be handed down last week. But the holidays might delay the verdict, which may or may not be good news.

UCI was picked to finish sixth in the nine-team Big West, as defending regular-season champions Santa Barbara and Long Beach State were followed by Pacific in the top three spots.

UCSB, Long Beach and Pacific still figure to be the most formidable title contenders. The Gauchos (5-4) have victories over Fresno State and then-No. 22-ranked UNLV.

Long Beach (5-7) has had the conference's most imposing schedule, including a win over Iowa. The 49ers have also lost to North Carolina, San Diego State, Clemson and then-No. 22-ranked Washington.

UC Riverside, which visits UCI to open conference play Tuesday at 7 p.m., is joined by Cal State Fullerton and UC Davis with four wins apiece. Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Cal State Northridge are both 3-7, but Cal Poly pushed then-No. 10-ranked San Diego State before falling, 51-45, on the road Dec. 13, and fell at Cal, 51-41, Saturday.

After facing Riverside, UCI plays host to Loyola Marymount on Dec. 30, before playing host to Cal State Fullerton on Jan. 5.

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