'Eaters lacking answers

Absence of injured Wise leaves UCI soft in the middle and Turner says his team looks tired.

February 05, 2011|By Barry Faulkner,

NORTHRIDGE — UC Irvine men's basketball coach Russell Turner may have some serious envy for his counterpart at Cal State Northridge, Bobby Braswell.

When Braswell looks down the bench, he sees replacements capable of the 57 collective points they produced in a 91-83 Big West Conference home victory over the Anteaters on Saturday night.

When Turner surveys his bench, these days, he sees his best two inside players wearing warm-up suits, unable to play due to injuries.


But Turner said after his team's fourth straight loss, including a three-game stretch in which opponents have averaged 93 points per game, that he sees symptoms from his entire roster that are, perhaps, even more troubling.

"We have been a better defensive team this year than we've been in these last three games," Turner said. "My team appears tired, and we've got to get the will to fight and perform back. That's on all of us, especially on me."

For the second straight game, a sluggish start put UCI in a hole, as the Matadors (9-14, 6-4 in conference) bolted to a 31-13 advantage.

UCI (10-14, 3-6) pulled within three late in the first half and within six with 5:05 left in the game. But Northridge, which has won five of its last six Big West games since winning at UCI on Jan. 27, pulled away.

The hosts scored 20 of their 49 first-half points in the paint, including 10 by 6-foot-8 senior Lenny Daniel, who finished with 22 points and 10 rebounds, his 10th double-double of the season.

With UCI senior center Pavol Losonsky fouling out in 12 minutes with only four points and one rebound, the absence for a second straight game of junior Eric Wise (strained hamstring), was glaring.

Northridge finished with 36 points in the paint and its ability to penetrate also helped lead to 42 foul shots, 33 of which it converted.

"To give up 91 points, when we had tried to make protecting the paint our focus, coming in, was disappointing," Turner said. "We didn't protect the paint at all. And it wasn't just Daniel [who made seven of his nine field-goal tries]. They had a lot of people get to the rim."

Braswell acknowledged that things were easier for his team without Wise to deal with. Junior Adam Folker, a strong rebounder who sat next to Wise on the bench, both in warm-up suits, has also been out all season with injuries.

"Obviously, their not having Wise out there on the floor was a big difference, " Braswell said.

Daniels concurred.

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