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Colleges: 'Eaters relish victory

December 05, 2011|By Barry Faulkner

If, as most believe, losing can be a valuable teacher, then the UC Irvine men's basketball team was as ready for Saturday's 99-79 win over visiting San Diego as it would like to be for this week's academic finals.

Coach Russell Turner's Anteaters ended their six-game drought to begin the season in impressive fashion, draining shots, sharing the ball, maintaining defensive intensity and leaving the Toreros (4-3) wondering if that 0-6 on the UCI stat sheet may have been some kind of cruel typo.

Having lost their only previous home game before Saturday, it was clearly good for the seven freshmen on the UCI roster to experience not only victory, but a commanding triumph that left Turner little with which to quibble.

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"We had a number of people perform at a high level," Turner said. "What I saw us do was make the plays we should make."

UCI's four leading scorers (Mike Wilder with 19, Chris McNealy (16), Will Davis (15) and Adam Folker (11) combined to make 25 of 27 field-goal attempts to help the 'Eaters shoot 61.9% as a team.

Another factor was the strong play of freshman Aaron Wright, who for now has assumed the starting point guard role. Wright had eight points, seven assists, six rebounds, one steal and only two turnovers in 28 minutes.

"I believe in Aaron Wright," Turner said. "He's not a perfect player yet, but he's talented. He's big, he can guard, rebound, and he can see plays. He had a good performance tonight, I've got to make sure he gets better."

Turner was clearly relieved to end the winless streak, but said the triumph, no matter how dominant, would not earn his players any extra time off as they crack down for finals before facing Vanguard on Saturday night at the Bren Events Center.

"We can't really take days off right now," Turner said.

Vanguard (6-4) is coached by Rhett Soliday, who spent four seasons on the UCI staff before taking over the Lions' program for the 2010-11 season.

Another former UCI assistant, Tod Murphy, who also starred as a player for the Anteaters (the school's No. 2 all-time scorer), will bring his Gordon College team (from Wenham, Mass.) to Vanguard. Murphy's squad will meet the Lions on Dec. 29 as part of the Bill Reynolds Holiday Classic.

Nearly as impressive Saturday was the UCI women's team's 88-82 come-from-behind win over visiting Santa Clara.

The Broncos came in 6-1 and shot 53.4%. But UCI scored the final 10 points of the contest to improve to 3-5 and post its third win in its last four games.

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