Wiley, Long Beach Defeat Irvine, 98-90
As UC Irvine Coach Bill Mulligan saw it, his own guard, Mike Hess, was great but Cal State Long Beach’s Morlon Wiley was magnificent Sunday afternoon.
Wiley, who had a sizzling duel with Hess, took over in the second half, scoring 23 of his 32 points as the 49ers beat the Anteaters, 98-90, before 2,537 at the Long Beach Arena.
The 49ers (16-9 overall and 10-6 in the Pacific Coast Athletic Assn.) overcame a 44-33 halftime deficit to maintain fourth place in the PCAA standings.
“Long Beach wore us out,” Mulligan said. “They came at us really hard and their press wore us out. And Morlon Wiley was magnificent, an unbelievable basketball player.”
The 6-foot-4 Wiley and the 6-1 Hess, who had a career-high 21 points, pushed, shoved and talked to each other, but this was nothing new.
“He comes to the local gyms in the summer, and sometimes we go at it,” Wiley, who also had 8 assists and 5 rebounds, said of Hess. “He thought by talking, he would get pumped up.”
Hess, who Mulligan called the “all-time over-achiever,” was plenty pumped. At one point in the second half, he scored 15 of 17 Irvine points. But during that same period Wiley was hitting three-point jumpers, making spinning moves into the lane and perfect passes.
After Hess had made a three-pointer to tie the game at 62-62, Wiley came back with one of his own with 9:25 to play. The Anteaters (14-12, 9-8) never led again.
Hess said he expected the intensity between him and Wiley. “It’s getting close to tournament time,” Hess said. “This was a big game. I’ve got a lot of respect for him. He’s a ballplayer.”
The 49ers were clinging to a 72-68 lead with just over six minutes left when they got help from two unexpected sources. Rudy Harvey, averaging 6 points a game, made two free throws and a jumper, and Jeff Eastin, averaging 4.4 points a game, hit two straight 18-footers as Long Beach went on an 8-3 spurt that put the game out of reach.
The Anteaters had things their way in the first half, despite only five points from high-scoring center Wayne Engelstad. They shot 54% from the field and made 19 of 22 free throws. Long Beach, meanwhile, shot only 43% in the first half and made 11 turnovers.
“We were doing too much thinking in the first half,” Wiley said.
Engelstad, who finished with 20 points, made the first basket of the second half but didn’t score another field goal until there was 1:20 left in the game. He scored nine points in the last 1:20 but it was too late.
“Some of our guys are just not in shape,” Mulligan said, indicating he was including his 260-pound center in that group.