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Men's Basketball: UCI defends the Bren

'Eaters knock off first-place 49ers to finish 9-0 in home conference games and 12-1 this season.

March 02, 2013|By Barry Faulkner

IRVINE — Moments after storming the court following UC Irvine's 72-69 Big West Conference men's basketball over first-place Long Beach State on Saturday, numerous Anteater students aimed their cellphones skyward to capture an image of the scoreboard.

But years from now, when they gather to retell the story of the ninth home conference victory in nine tries this season, it's the goose bumps, not a photo, that will jump to mind.

For 'Eaters Coach Russell Turner, the lump materialized in his throat, as he began to try to relate what the four seniors honored before their final home game have given to his young program.

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Adam Folker (a team-best 16 points to go with seven rebounds), Mike Wilder (10 points, 10 rebounds and three assists, including a huge three-pointer that broke a 63-63 deadlock with 1:10 left and two foul shots with 3.8 seconds remaining to finalize the scoring), Daman Starring (10 points, including both ends of a one-and-one free-throw situation with 27 seconds left that put the hosts up, 68-63) and Derrick Flowers (five points on two-of-three shooting from the field in a starting role) were among the UCI heroes.

That list also included sophomore Will Davis, who blocked a career-high-tying eight shots to go with 12 points and five boards. Sophomore Travis Souza went three for five from three-point range for nine points, while adding four rebounds, and freshman Alex Young had eight points and four assists. Young's biggest assist was a cross-court pass to Wilder for the aforementioned 49ers' killer. And Young sank two free throws in a one-and-one situation with 19.9 ticks remaining.

"We had a lot of guys play well," said Turner, whose team broke a five-game losing streak to Long Beach State to remain no worse than fourth in the Big West with two regular-season conference games remaining. "Trying to find a player of the game was tough … That's kind of the essence of this team."

Turner, whose squad improved to 17-13, 10-6 in conference, said Davis' defense was the biggest key to knocking off the conference bully. But he was also stirred by the significance and story arc his four seniors brought to the senior-night triumph.

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