Welp, that stretch of positive vibes sure came to a screeching halt. The ‘Eaters reminded everyone just how young and inconsistent they are right now as a team last Saturday with a terrible 54-37 loss to lowly Milwaukee. The offense played as if everyone was still sleepy from tryptophan, and the putrid output killed any notion that this team would experience a purely linear growth en route to the NCAA Tournament. On any given night, against any given opponent, this team can lose, and lose badly.
On the other hand, Sunday’s performance against East Tennessee State, despite a 72-66 loss, showed the promising upside that keeps our hopes high in Irvine. Ioannis responded to getting benched on Saturday by putting up a career-best 21 points against ETSU. Consider his 9 rebounds as well, and that just might be the best game the “Greek God of Irvine” has put together to date.
With Sioux Falls in the rear-view mirror, let’s hope that Irvine has gotten these disappointing performances out of their system, and that the coaching staff has figured out how to prepare the team for these “confusing” changing defenses that both Utah State and Milwaukee utilized.
Next up are the Santa Clara Broncos. The WCC cellar dwellars are led by first-year head coach Herb Sendek, formerly of NC State and Arizona State.
History: UCI is 3-0 all-time against SCU, including a solid 79-61 win at home just last season. Luke Nelson went off for 20 points in that game while Mamadou chipped in 15. Brandon Smith also had one of his best games of his freshman season against the Broncos.
What can Brownridge do for them: Senior Jared Brownridge averages over 20 points a game for Santa Clara, and is possibly the best scorer UCI has faced this season. The four-year starter put up 44 points against Arizona last year and is coming off a 36 point effort against Vanderbilt. I would not be surprised if Turner uses a box-and-one defense against Brownridge. Regardless, it should be interesting to see if UCI can maintain their success guarding Brownridge from last season, or if the senior guard is due to go off this time around.
Injury Reports: Unlike UC Irvine, Santa Clara is actually transparent with their injury problems. Key player KJ Feagin has yet to play due to a broken bone in his foot, while forward Matt Hubbard and sophomore guard Evan Wardlow are still rounding back into shape after suffering off-season injuries. Meanwhile, Luke Nelson’s injury is inexplicably handled like a matter of national security, and we fans have no idea of when he will actually be back. The whole thing comes off as extremely minor league, but what can you do.
Transitive Property of Basketball: Big West conference mate UC Davis knocked off Santa Clara earlier this season 63-58. While we know all too well that the transitive property doesn’t apply neatly in basketball, it’s still something to judge the team by. If the Aggies can beat these guys, so can we. Rip ’em.