For the first time in five years, UC Irvine (5-10, 2-1) went on the road to the Spanos Center and came away with a win against Pacific (4-9, 0-2). Adam Folker and Michael Wilder both recorded double-doubles on the night, while Derick Flowers had seven points and eight assists. It was a true team effort for UCI as all eight players who played scored.
With three minutes left in the game, UCI showed a lot of heart and improved poise by taking charge of a 68-68 tie game, fighting to take the lead once more and then sealing the win over an older (if equally inexperienced) Tigers team. Folker was the star late by hitting a go-ahead free throw and then finishing a great feed from Flowers to put UCI up 71-69. The win is truly a great sign of a growing team. Earlier this season, UCI would have folded and lost this close game late. Today, they found a win to improve to 2-0 in conference away games, a difficult task.
The offense was carried beyond the arc, led by Wilder’s 6-9 from 3-point land. The team as a whole went 14-28, a gaudy 50 percent on the night. Coach Russell Turner trimmed down his lineup today to a solid eight, a core group that will lead the charge for the rest of the season. It also appears that the upperclassmen have entrenched themselves in the starting lineup, which is preferable.
Off the bench, Mike Best had a great night and first half in particular. The skinny center has shown a strong confidence in his shot all season, and it paid off today when he went 6-9 to record 14 points on the night. Collin Woods also showed signs of getting more accustomed to the offense, nailing 3-4 3-pointers on the night.
Also impressive: eight blocks on the night, including two from Woods, two from Chris McNealy, and even one from Flowers. Good stuff!
The win dampened Pacific’s celebration ceremony for Coach Bob Thomason becoming the all-time Big West wins leader, but also gave UCI the early edge in what was an interesting contrast heading into the season. UCI went with all freshmen recruits, while Pacific pretty much went with all junior college recruits. Turner was brought in as a fresh face and someone who would force the tempo and bring a new style to the Big West. Thomason is seen as a beacon of tradition, preaching a slow-it-down offense that is reminiscent of Pat Douglass’ old philosophy. At least for today, I’m glad UCI has Turner and what seems to be a much brighter future than UOP.
An audibly excited Turner after the game:
“I feel a lot of energy right now because I’m pleased with what I saw from so many guys.”
“I couldn’t be prouder of that young man.”
More from Turner:
“I’m pleased and impressed with my team’s performance, especially in the second half. I don’t feel like we played our best basketball, and we were still able to win.”