Adam Folker won't back down. (Courtesy of UCI Athletics)

Down goes Northridge! Down goes Northridge! Down goes Northridge!

Ok, so yesterday wasn’t exactly a battle between heavyweights, but in terms of entertainment value and offenses duking it out against hapless defenses, it was a game to remember. If you haven’t heard already, UCI basketball took down CSUN 94-85 in an OT affair last night at the Bren. Thankfully, CSUN’s Stephen Maxwell had a regulation buzzer beater tip-in attempt that just missed, saving us from a post of disappointment and heartbreak.

Let’s break down the Anteaters who made the difference.

  • Before fouling out late in the second half, Chris McNealy had a career-high 21 points in an impressive offensive display. His 4-5 shooting from three was a big part of UCI staying in the game despite their many first half turnovers. To some, McNealy’s season has been a disappointment after the hype he received from the likes of Mark Roberts. However, his 9.4 PPG this season is nothing to be ashamed of from a sophomore. Sure, he is an inconsistent presence on offense, and his shot seems to have a weird spin to it that causes the ball to rattle in and out. But I believe McNealy may have a similar career trajectory as Patrick Sanders.

Sanders’ PPG at UCI by season: 1.7, 8.6, 11.9, 15.1.

McNealy’s numbers to date: 5.0, 9.4, ??, ??.

  • Will Davis II was an absolute defensive beast down the stretch and in OT, racking up vicious block after vicious block. The end result was another UCI single-game record for blocks: eight. When you consider the number of big guys UCI has had over the years, this number is truly staggering. And it isn’t just leaping ability either. Zack Atkinson had plenty of that, and never came close to the seven and eight blocks that Davis II is picking up in D-I play. Will the Thrill has a nose for the defensive block that is hard to teach; it should be a valuable and entertaining asset to have at the Bren for three more years.

  • After struggling with turnovers due to Northridge’s press and trap, Michael Wilder willed UCI back into the game with his scrappy determination. He racked up a few key loose balls, jump balls, rebounds and drive-into-the-lane-and-force-a-foul plays to erase a 9-point CSUN lead. Wilder quietly ended up with 11 points and 11 rebounds on the night, his third double-double of the year.
  • Last but certainly not least is the career night from Adam Folker. In the beginning of the season, I called Folker an X-Factor and took a look at his transformation from athletic guard-forward to rugged center. In yesterday’s performance, Folker all but reached the pinnacle of the bruising big man role, repeatedly getting baskets where he took the word lay-up and changed it to lay-in. Folker fully understands his range and offensive repertoire, and no one on Northridge’s post-challenged team was able to stop him. 28 points (on beastly 11-14 shooting) and 9 rebounds is a sensational line that puts him among the best in the Big West. Some more great things concerning our Canadian sensation…
  1. Coach Turner has called him the most competitive guy on the team, and yet Folker always manages to be extremely courteous and kind away from the game. That combination is rarer than you might think.
  2. In a recent Facebook photo of Folker dunking, Adam commented with a shout out to all the doctors that said that he wouldn’t be able to play this season. The fact that he has now worked himself back from that hip surgery to the level he is at now is admirable.
  3. Free throw shooting has been the obvious bane to Folker’s game this season. At one point he was under 30 percent, and even now he is only at 35 percent. Still, last night’s 6-10 from the line performance shows that he is working hard at improving this element of the game. Remember, Folker used to have quite the shooting touch in high school, to the point where he would drain 3-pointers.
  4. Fox Sports PRIME TICKET announcer Michael Cage called Folker a “high basketball IQ” guy, which was an interesting assessment. While I don’t think Folker is necessarily at the level of an Eric Wise, he has made a name himself with heady play. Folker is great at using his body to block out defenders, creating driving lanes or easy rebounds. Yesterday, he sold a big charging call against Northridge’s Michael Lizarraga. He also drew two Northridge players into the lane too quickly with a hesitation in his free throw form (although I’m not sure if that one is on purpose).

Last night’s win was an important win at home that gets UCI back into a three-way tie for fourth place. Hopefully they can carry on this momentum and team play and maybe even give 14-0 Long Beach State a run for their money.