Men's Basketball, Men's Sports, Sports

‘Niners fall at UC Irvine, lose second straight

UC Irvine’s senior night celebration carried on much longer than the pregame ceremony.

In order to capture the outright Big West regular season championship, the Long Beach State men’s basketball team needed a win at Irvine or a Pacific loss at Riverside. Neither of those would happen Saturday evening.

The Anteaters (17-13, 10-6 Big West) dominated the tempo early, and the 49ers’ comeback attempt was just too little, too late, as Irvine captured a 72-69 victory Saturday evening at Bren Events Center.

After trailing by 13 early in the second half, LBSU (17-11, 13-3) stormed back to tie the contest at 63 late in the game.

UCI’s Michael Wilder knocked down a tie-breaking three from the left corner and a pair of free throws later to thrust the Anteaters to their final tally of 72.

The senior forward ended up scoring 10 points and bringing down 10 boards to earn a double-double. He also dished out three assists while committing no turnovers.

Mike Caffey was connecting from all over the floor during the comeback attempt, compiling 23 points, two assists, two rebounds, two steals and a block.

The sophomore guard was 8-of-12 from the field and hit five 3-pointers on eight attempts. His last conversion brought the 49ers within one of UCI with less than six seconds left to play, and his final attempt was a desperation heave from about 45 feet out that would have tied the game at the buzzer.

Keala King also took over for The Beach in the second half, tallying 14 points, eight rebounds and a game-high five assists.

Sophomore center Will Davis II turned the painted area into a basketball-eating abyss, as he rejected eight LBSU shots on the game, including seven in the first half alone.

None of Davis II’s blocks were more impactful or ferocious than number eight though. With under a minute to play, King took to the paint with the ‘Niners trailing by three, and Davis II sent King’s shot sailing clear out of bounds with an emphatic rejection.

Davis II finished the evening with 12 points and five rebounds as well.

Adam Folker and Damon Starring also scored in double-digits for Irvine, pouring in 16 and 10 points, respectively.

Senior guard James Ennis extended his double figure scoring to 33 games with 12 points to go with eight caroms. Dan Jennings also made his presence felt despite the loss, as he had 10 points, nine boards and two assists.

LBSU head coach Dan Monson said his team just could not perform well enough on both ends of the court for the full 40 minutes to earn the win.

“In a game like that when you’re always playing from behind, the margin for error is a little bit different,” he said. “We never really put offense and defense together. In the first half we never got in an offensive rhythm, and it took a toll for about five or six minutes when we broke defensively. In the second half we got in a good offensive rhythm with rebounding and second shots.”

LBSU returns to action Thursday when it starts its Northern California road trip at UC Davis (14-14, 9-7) at 7 p.m. The game will be televised on ESPN2.

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