Defensive Intensity Lifts UC Irvine over Hawai'i, 71-60, at Big West Tournament

Michael Wilder had his eighth career double-double in Thursday night's win over Hawai'i at the Big West Tournament.
Michael Wilder had his eighth career double-double in Thursday night's win over Hawai'i at the Big West Tournament.


ANAHEIM, Calif. --- An intense defense from the opening tip and six players in double-figure scoring lifted UC Irvine over Hawai'i, 71-60, in a Big West Tournament quarterfinal at the Honda Center Thursday night.

With the victory, the fourth-seeded 'Eaters meet top-seeded Long Beach State Friday night at 6:30 in one semifinal, with Pacific facing Cal Poly in the other semifinal later in the evening.

UCI has won seven of its last eight games and nine of the past 12.

UCI (19-14) held the Warriors to just five points in the opening 11 ½ minutes of Thursday night's game as the 'Eaters streaked to a 24-5 lead in that span.

Sophomore Will Davis II scored all 13 of his points in the opening 20 minutes as UCI led 44-22 at the break.

Hawai'i (17-14) opened the second half with an 11-0 run to cut the deficit in half, but the 'Eaters maintained a double-digit lead for the entire half in winning their 19th game of the season, the most for the program since finishing 20-9 in 2002-03.

Senior Michael Wilder had 12 points and 10 rebounds for his eighth career double-double, sophomore Travis Souza scored 11 points, and senior Daman Starring, junior Chris McNealy and freshman Alex Young added 10 points each.

Hauns Brereton and Vander Joaquim led the Warriors with 18 points apiece and Christian Standhardinger had 11.

The 'Eaters shot 58 percent from the field in the opening half and held Hawai'i to just 26.5 percent in taking control.

UCI cooled off to 25 percent in the second half and shot 40 percent for the game while the
Warriors hit 35 percent of their shots in the game in becoming the 17th UCI opponent to shoot under 40 percent this season when the 'Eaters are 12-5.

UCI outrebounded the Warriors, 40-38, and UCI is 12-4 this season when winning the battle of the boards.

"I'm really happy with my guys and a lot of them played well tonight," UCI head coach Russell Turner said.  "I thought we set the tone for the game with our defensive intensity.

"We made a lot of aggressive plays at the rim.  Hawai'i made it difficult for us to start the second half but I thought were able to regain our defensive intensity. 

"The great thing about our group is we do it as a team offensively and defensively," Turner added.

UCI and Long Beach State split this season, with the 49ers winning 81-59 at the Walter Pyramid Jan. 26 and the 'Eaters prevailing 72-69 at the Bren Center Mar. 2.


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