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UCI ditches losing streak

Anteaters hold off UCSB to snap five-game skid, rise out of last-place tie in the Big West Conference.

February 12, 2011|By Barry Faulkner, barry.faulkner@latimes.com
(Kent Treptow / Daily…)

IRVINE — There can come a point when the prevalence of losing gives a team nothing to lose. UC Irvine senior guard Darren Moore said Coach Russell Turner told his Anteaters as much heading into Saturday's Big West Conference home game against UC Santa Barbara.

"Coach Turner told us from the jump, to come out here and play as hard as we can," Moore said after the Anteaters procured a 66-63 win to snap a five-game losing streak, the team's longest of the season. "He didn't want us to worry about anything — the standings, the TV [regional telecast on Fox Sports West], anything. He just wanted us to come out and play hard. We didn't have anything to lose, so why not?"

The 'Eaters (11-15, 4-8 in conference) used an attacking offense, a gimmick defense, and noteworthy performances by Moore and senior point guard Patrick Rembert to come away with their first victory in 21 days in front of 3,354 at the Bren Events Center. UCI moves one game ahead of last-place UC Davis.

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UCSB, which returned five starters from the team that shared last season's regular-season Big West crown, fell to 13-10, 6-6. But not without a dramatic final possession in which UCI supporters saw the possibility of overtime pass before their eyes as Gauchos stars Orlando Johnson and James Nunnally missed three-point attempts that would have knotted things.

It was a triangle-and-two defense that restricted opportunities for Johnson, last year's Big West Player of the Year, as well as Nunnally. The duo had combined for 107 of their team's 152 points in their two previous games, with Johnson producing 70 in back-to-back wins against UC Riverside (Thursday) and UC Davis.

Johnson needed 16 field-goal attempts to get 18 points Saturday, while Nunnally finished with eight points.

"We played triangle-and-two almost the whole game," Turner said of his ploy to try to contain Johnson and Nunnally, who were a combined nine for 24 from the field to mirror the Gauchos' shooting success for the game (37.5%). "We played a couple possessions of two-three zone and I think we only went man-to-man on that last [possession], when they needed a three."

In a game with 16 lead changes and nine ties, UCSB was up, 48-45, until a three-point play by Rembert knotted the game with 7:19 left and sparked an 11-0 UCI surge that created a 56-48 edge with four minutes left.

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