In one of the best team efforts of the season, UCI decided today that they weren’t ready for their season to be over, upsetting Cal State Fullerton 65-59. Chris McNealy poured in a career-high 24 points while Big West Hustle Player of the Year Adam Folker battled to the bitter end, contributing 10 points and 12 rebounds.
In the end, it was the team’s cohesive defensive effort that won the game. After giving up 94 and 100 points in the first two games against CSF, UCI held the Titans to 21 points in the first half. They limited turnovers for the most part and did a good job of slowing down previously on fire DJ Seeley. Although Fullerton, behind a Big West Tournament record 21 rebounds from Omondi Amoke, kept it close until very late, UCI was able to finish it off with an impressive closing effort.
UCI now advances for the first time since 2008, when they made a run to the conference championship game against the Titans. They will likely play Long Beach State tomorrow, unless the 49ers are somehow upset by No. 8 UC Davis. I knew that UCI had a chance to pull off the upset of CSF if they could shoot lights out and run into a cold CSF team, which they did today (47 percent from the field, 45.5 percent from 3-point land compared to 37.1, 25 percent for CSF), but tomorrow’s game against either Long Beach State or UCSB will be much more difficult. But as we should all know by now, anything can happen in March Madness.