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UCI uses double whammy

Anteaters win in double OT for second time in three days to clinch Big West tourney berth.

February 26, 2011|By Barry Faulkner, barry.faulkner@latimes.com
(Kent Treptow / Daily…)

IRVINE — Since the day he was announced as the UC Irvine men's basketball coach, Russell Turner has talked about wanting his team to be playing its best late in the season, when it matters most.

And while the Anteaters may still not be where Turner wants them, their ability to perform in the clutch in two games this week enabled them to earn their place in the Big West Conference Tournament.

The clinching win was a 97-86 double-overtime triumph over Big West visitor Pacific on Saturday.

UCI's second double-overtime win in three days (it outlasted UC Davis on Thursday) locked up a berth in the eight-team postseason conference tournament March 10-12 at Honda Center. The 'Eaters (13-17, 6-9 in conference) have one game left to determine their tournament seeding. They could be as anywhere from fifth to eighth.

But if the Anteaters are to maximize their remaining potential, they will need to eliminate their dramatic flair that saw them lose late leads to Pacific and UC Davis, only to eventually prevail.

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Saturday, UCI squandered a 20-point lead, accumulated with 1:41 left in the first half, as the Tigers (16-12, 8-6) pulled even with the same three-point shooting formula that allowed UCI to create its cushion.

UCI led by four with five seconds left in regulation and held a three-point edge with 1.2 seconds left, only to see UOP force the extra session.

UCI was also up, 82-79, late in the first five-minute OT, only to see Allen Huddleston, who was zero for 11 from the field and had missed all seven of his three-point attempts to that point, connect on a three-pointer from the left wing with 4.4 seconds remaining to extend things yet again.

Huddleston, a 61.7% free-throw shooter coming into the game, sank three foul shots after being fouled on a desperation 35-foot three-point attempt with 1.2 seconds left in regulation, to knot the score at 77-77.

But despite twice allowing the Tigers to wriggle out of the fangs of defeat, UCI dominated the second overtime to send most of the final Bren Events Center crowd of the season home happy.

Junior Eric Wise led the winners with 25 points and 12 rebounds after coming off the bench due to a ceremonial all-senior starting lineup.

Wise, who had missed the six games prior to this week with a hamstring problem, amassed 48 points and 28 boards in his two return engagements.

Wise scored nine overtime points Saturday and had 21 post-regulation points in the two contests.

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