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UCI staves off Vanguard

Men’s Basketball

Anteaters' freshmen come up big down the stretch to secure win over NAIA squad at Bren Events Center.

December 10, 2011|By Barry Faulkner

IRVINE — UC Irvine freshmen Will Davis and Aaron Wright came up with big plays in the closing minutes to key a hard-fought men's basketball victory Saturday night.

But whether they will have the courage to relate their heroics in the future, remains in question.

That's because it took a game-tying three-pointer by Wright with 1:09 left, a put-back credited to Davis with 49 seconds remaining, and a blocked shot by Davis with 18 ticks left to help preserve a 75-73 win over Vanguard, a victory that UCI believed should not have been anywhere as precarious as it turned out.

Vanguard, an NAIA school that played the game as an exhibition, nearly came away with a signature win that would not have counted on its 6-4 record.

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UCI (2-6), for which the game counted, mustered all the crunch-time fortitude it needed to post its second straight win.

"The main thing I liked was, we didn't have guys who shrunk from the moment," UCI Coach Russell Turner said after his team built then squandered a 15-point second-half lead. "You've got to have courage to be good in any sport, but that's especially true in college basketball when you're playing a team that everybody expects you to beat."

Vanguard's courage appeared more in the form of abandon as the Lions, coached by former UCI assistant Rhett Soliday, made nine of 15 three-point attempts after halftime to claw back into the contest.

Junior Taylor Kelly made six of nine three-point tries and senior reserve Chris Pynch made all five of his three-point attempts after intermission to help the Lions nearly pull off the upset.

A Pynch three-pointer with 2:00 left put Vanguard on top, 68-67, and a steal by Vanguard senior Chris Raybon on UCI's subsequent possession led to a Cameron Nettles dunk that gave the visitors a three-point lead with 1:39 to play.

Davis snatched one of the Anteaters' 20 offensive rebounds and kicked to Wright at the top of the key for the equalizer and a sloppy turnover by the Lions gave UCI the ball back with 1:00 remaining.

UCI guard Daman Starring then missed a runner and Davis rose toward the rim behind Vanguard freshman Jordan Diandy. Diandy appeared to tip the ball in, allowing Davis to take credit for the basket that gave UCI the lead for good. It was the second time in the game that a Lion tipped the ball into the Anteaters' basket while attempting to rebound.

Davis, a 6-8 forward, finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds — both career highs — in 26 minutes off the bench.

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