UCI creates reversal in 81-69 win

BREN EVENTS CENTER -- On several different fronts, the key to UC

Irvine's 81-69 men's basketball victory over nonconference visitor

Sacramento State Saturday night came down to reversal.

First, it was the Anteaters' ability to reverse the ball

offensively -- swing it to the weak side to attack the defensive

flank -- that led to a second-half turnaround.

UCI's 53 points in the final 20 minutes turned a one-point

halftime deficit into a comfortable win and also avenged a

disappointing 64-56 road setback last season to the Hornets (1-4).

For UCI senior center Greg Ethington, the juxtaposition involved

dispensing foul trouble, rather than being saddled by it.

The 6-foot-8 Ethington scored 19 of his career-high 24 points

after intermission, virtually all of which came from strong finishing

moves in the lane, or resulting fouls that allowed him to make 11 of

14 foul shots after intermission.

And though he did foul out with 1:15 remaining, his second

exclusion of the campaign, he had only two fouls until the final 5:13

and played a season-high 36 minutes.

He had 13 points and 46 minutes combined in road losses last week

to USC and UCLA.

In yet another turnabout, Ethington reached his scoring apex

against the team that signaled the beginning of, arguably, the

deepest abyss of his UCI career.

"Last year's [Sacramento State] game was the day I learned I may

have a problem with my grades," Ethington recalled of an academic

snafu that sidelined him for four games last season.

On this night, in its final game before taking nine days off --

most of which will be dedicated to taking finals -- the Anteaters

(2-2) passed a strong test provided by a quick and energetic band of

Hornets.

"They do a good job of applying pressure and they're very

athletic," UCI Coach Pat Douglass said of a Sacramento State squad

that had forced opponents into an average of 22.3 turnovers in its

four contests. "And they really got us on the offensive boards,

especially in that first half (a 13-3 advantage before the break).

"But I thought our kids adjusted well in the second half. We

didn't allow as much penetration and, offensively, we broke down

their pressure a little better. In the first half, we weren't getting

the ball reversed. When we got the ball reversed a little bit, we got

some penetration and created some shots."

Junior point guard Aaron Fitzgerald finally broke through against

the visitors' smothering man-to-man defense, penetrating and kicking

to trigger a crucial 12-2 UCI run that helped put the game away.

With 5:49 left and the Anteaters up, 61-57, Fitzgerald set up

Ethington for a layin he made while being fouled.

After Shamar Armstrong netted a pair of free throws, Fitzgerald

again fed Ethington near the foul line, after drawing Ethington's man

to him to stop his penetration. Ethington, shielding the ball from a

defender with his body, converted the basket, drew the foul and, this

time, completed the three-point play.

Fitzgerald, who finished with a game-high six assists, found

forward Darren Fells for an easy layup to keep the UCI roll going and

Jeff Gloger capped the surge with a baseline drive that resulted in

yet another layup.

"[The Hornets'] quickness and aggressiveness got to us the first

half," said Ethington, who had five points and just two field-goal

attempts before intermission. "But we were able to get ball reversal

to take away some of their defensive pressure and create better

passing lanes [in the second half]. We were most effective when our

guards were penetrating and creating, and that was [Gloger] and Ross

[Schraeder], as well as [Fitzgerald.]"

The 12-2 burst, which ended with 2:15 remaining, created a 73-59

cushion that proved more than enough.

Ethington, who grabbed eight rebounds, finished 5 of 10 from the

field and 14 of 18 from the foul line.

"I thought Greg played like a senior in the second half," Douglass

said. "His play inside was critical."

Patrick Sanders, a redshirt freshman, had a game-high 10 rebounds

in 18 minutes to help the Anteaters match the visitors' rebound total

of 41.

"I thought Patrick came in and played very athletically." Douglass

said.

UCI's own defensive pressure, a continual area of improvement from

last season, helped produce an anemic 27.8% field-goal-shooting

performance by the visitors (23 of 73). Struggling in the shooting

department, Sacramento lost its final lead with 9:11 remaining.

Schraeder finished with 14 points and Armstrong added 10 off the

bench for the winners.

Zots -- UCI came into Saturday's games leading the Big West

Conference in scoring offense (80.3 points per game) ... UCI also

entered the game second in the conference in rebounds per game (40)

and second in field-goal-percentage defense (.409) ... The Anteaters

next game is Dec. 14 at Santa Clara and their next home contest is

Dec. 21 against New Mexico State.

*--*

Nonconference

UC Irvine 81, Sacramento State 69

Sacramento State -- Pugh 9, Adams 0, Perry 0, J. Harris 15, E.J. Harris 9, Freeman 12, Bausley 11, McKay 6, Roberts 4, Beekman 2, Gilzene 1. 3-pt. goals -- Bausley 2, J. Harris 1, E.J. Harris 1. Fouled out -- Perry. Technicals -- None. UC Irvine --

Ethington 24, Fells 8, Gloger 8, Schraeder 14, Fitzgerald 8, Armstrong 10, Sanders 4, Campbell 3, Metelski 2. 3-pt. goals -- Schraeder 2, Armstrong 2, Fitzgerald 1, Campbell 1. Fouled out -- Ethington. Technicals -- None. Halftime -- Sacramento State,

29-28.

*--*

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