IRVINE — In the Big West Conference opener for both teams, Saturday night's men's basketball clash between host UC Irvine and UC Davis was all about closing.
After allowing Aggies sophomore guard Corey Hawkins to score his team's final 11 points of regulation to help force overtime, the Anteaters scored all 11 points in the five-minute extra session of a 69-58 triumph. The win allowed UCI (7-7) to gain a share of first place in the Big West with its fourth win in five home games this season.
It was also the first win in three overtime contests for UCI, which has now finished strongly in its last three victories to win three of its last four games.
UCI senior Daman Starring made a driving layup with three seconds left in regulation to force OT, the third overtime contest in the last five meetings with UC Davis. Starring, the Anteaters' leading scorer at 13.3 per game coming in, then scored the first five points of overtime to help stake the hosts to an insurmountable lead.
UC Davis (4-8), which attempted just four free throws, missed all eight of its field-goal tries in overtime. The Aggies were limited to one field goal in the final 10:33 of the contest.
Starring finished with 15 points, while adding seven rebounds. But if Starring sealed the deal, UCI senior Adam Folker surely did more than his fair share to set the stage for the victory. Folker had 15 points and 14 rebounds for his first double-double of the season. He made seven of 11 field-goal tries and half of his boards, just shy of his career-high 15, were on the offensive glass.
UCI Coach Russell Turner also was quick to credit the defensive work of senior Mike Wilder, who inherited a red-hot Hawkins after he had made five straight shots during one second-half stretch. Hawkins finished with 21 points, but was zero for four in OT.
"Our guys will tell you Wilder's defense on Hawkins [late in the game] was the difference," Turner said. "Wilder was our go-to guy on defense tonight."
UCI used an 11-0 run early in the second half to take a 44-41 lead. But after UCI went up, 49-43 with 11:07 left in regulation, the visitors scored the next eight points.
There were six lead changes and nine deadlocks between the two teams that split a pair of double-overtime games in 2010-11.
Freshman Alex Young made two free throws with 4:37 left in regulation to put UCI — which was 13 of 26 from the line — up, 56-55.
Hawkins tied it with a foul shot with 2:15 left. Hawkins sank a 10-foot runner with 10 seconds left, but Starring came through on the ensuing possession.
"[Starring] was a big-time go-to player tonight, which is a big step for him, but a necessary step for our team," Turner said. "Adam Folker was a go-to player too on the interior [making seven of 11 field-goal tries, including five of six after halftime]."
UCI had just one turnover at halftime and finished with a season-low six. The 'Eaters posted a 43-37 rebounding advantage.
Young had 12 points, while Folker had 11 points and eight rebounds after halftime.
"There were a lot of momentum changes," Folker said. "We got a little pep talk at halftime from Coach Turner. "
Turner said guard Collin Woods, who was redshirting this season after averaging 3.3 points per game in 31 contests as a freshman last season, has left the program and will transfer.
Turner also said that 6-foot-10 sophomore Mike Best, who averaged 4.5 points and 2.1 rebounds in 10 games this season, three of which he started, will use a medical redshirt season this season. Turner did not specify the nature of Best's medical status.
UCI will now play five of its next seven conference games on the road, beginning with Thursday's date at UC Santa Barbara.
Big West Conference
UC Irvine 69, UC Davis 58 (OT)
UCD – Ritchart 15, Adenrele 8, Hawkins 21, Mancasola 4, Sypkens 2, Howley 4, Bozner 4.
3-pt. goals – Ritchart 3.
Fouled out – None.
Technicals – None.
UCI – Davis 10, Folker 15, Starring 15, Wilder 6, Young 12, McNealy 8, Flowers 3.
3-pt. goals – Young 2, Starring 2, Flowers 1, Wilder 1.
Fouled out – None.
Technicals – None.
Halftime – UC Davis, 34-30.
Regulation – 58-58.
Twitter: @BarryFaulkner5Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times