ANAHEIM — When visiting teams land at the Hawaii airport, they are typically presented with ceremonial leis. But designated host UC Irvine gave the Hawaii men's basketball team some altogether less hospitable treatment Thursday.
The No. 4-seeded Anteaters (19-14) used a 17-0 early run to help build a first-half lead the swelled to 23, all but blowing the Rainbow Warriors (17-14) clean off the mainland in their first trip to the Big West Conference Tournament at Honda Center.
UCI's 71-62 victory propelled it to Friday's semifinals, when it will meet regular-season conference champion Long Beach State (19-12) at 6:30 p.m.
Playing without senior post Adam Folker, who won the conference's Hustle Award for the second straight season, but has now missed three games with a strained right knee ligament, the Anteaters used defensive intensity and aggressive offense to hand Hawaii its parting gift.
Sophomore Will Davis scored UCI's first seven points and had 13 at intermission and the Big West Defensive Player of the Year also blocked two shots and added four rebounds.
Sophomore reserve guard Travis Souza made all three field-goal tries, including two three-pointers, in the opening 20 minutes, after which he had nine points.
Senior Mike Wilder had five points, six rebounds and four assists at halftime to help get the Anteaters off to their dominant start, which included holding Hawaii to 26.5% field-goal shooting (nine for 34).
UCI, meanwhile, made 14 of 24 first-half shots from the field (58.3%) and posted a 22-15 rebounding advantage over a team it split with in two regular-season conference games.
Hawaii scored the first 11 points of the second half and opened on a 14-2 run to climb back into it, as UCI missed 16 of its first 18 second-half field-goal attempts. But Hawaii never got closer than 10.
Six Anteaters scored in double figures, led by Davis with 13. Wilder had 12, while Alex Young, Daman Starring and Chris McNealy had 10 apiece. Souza finished with 11.
Wilder led the winners with 10 rebounds.
UCI, which has its highest season win total since the 2002-03 'Eaters went 20-9, is now 13-1 in games played in Orange County, including 10-0 against Big West competition.
UCI, which defeated Long Beach State, 72-69, in its final home game on March 2, will try to make it two straight against the 49ers, who eliminated UCI in last year's Big West Tournament semifinals. The 49ers dispatched Cal State Fullerton, 75-66, in their quarterfinal.
Big West Conference Tournament Quarterfinal
UC Irvine 71, Hawaii 60
Haw – Standhardinger 11, Brereton 18, Joaquim 18, Tavita 0, Jefferson 3, Manroop 8, Fotu 2.
3-pt. goals – Manroop 2, Brereton 2.
Fouled out – Brereton.
Technicals – None.
UCI – Wilder 12, Davis 13, Starring 10, McNealy 10, Young 10, Souza 11, Flowers 3, Ryan 2.
3-pt. goals – Souza 2, Starring 2, Wilder 2.
Fouled out – None.
Technicals – None.
Halftime – UCI, 44-22 .
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