IRVINE — Much like their first-year coach, the UC Irvine men's basketball team appeared a little less polished in its exhibition opener Tuesday night than it figures to be down the road.
Russ Turner, who took over the Anteaters helm from Pat Douglass after six seasons as an NBA assistant, said a wardrobe malfunction forced him to ditch the tie in his ensemble. He then witnessed some less-than-optimally-aesthetic moments from his new team.
But there was also some stylish displays from the Anteaters in a 77-52 triumph over UC San Diego, an NCAA Division II school picked to finish 11th in the California Collegiate Athletic Assn.
"My button broke," Turner said of his lack of a tie in front of 1,873 at the Bren Events Center. "It wasn't a fashion statement."
If there was any statement on the floor, it was that Turner made good on his promise for increased defensive pressure and a faster pace.
UCI's swarming man-to-man, which proved better on the perimeter than in the paint, helped cause 32 Triton turnovers. It also led to 28 points off turnovers and eight fast-break points. UCI used a full-court press briefly to harass the Tritons' ball-handlers.
Junior Eric Wise, a two-time second-team All-Big West performer who led UCI in scoring, rebounding and assists last season, paced the winners with 28 points and eight rebounds. Wise, who had his team's lone three-pointer in the first half, sank 12 of 17 field-goal tries, including two of six from three-point range.
The rest of the team was three for 13 on three-point attempts to produce one of the few areas of concern.
Another was rebounding, as the Tritons produced a 44-31 advantage.
"I told the guys I'm happy that we won and I'm pleased with the way we competed," Turner said. "But I'm really disappointed that we didn't rebound. I expected it to be a concern, but not this big of a concern. [UCSD] didn't have a physical advantage on us, but it seemed like they had a desire advantage. That's why I was upset."
Tritons 6-foot-8 junior Christian Hatch exploited UCI for 16 points, all on buckets within arm's length of the basket.
"Hatch had a great game and we kind of allowed some easy catches," Turner said.
"When we were forced to help from the backside, I thought we helped very soft."
Senior Darren Moore found his offensive flow in the second half, scoring 14 of his 16 points, making five of six field-goal tries after the break.
Moore was one for five from the field in the first 20 minutes, during which the four starters other than Wise were three for 14.
"It was the first game and guys were kind of nervous, me included," Moore said.
"In the second half, I felt real comfortable. I thought we were poised and did what we did in practice. Then, it started to feel like practice, which was good.
"We're going to have to pressure people, speed them up a little and get them playing fast, so they turn the ball over and get easy baskets," Moore said.
"That's what we did tonight."
Senior point guard Patrick Rembert had 10 points, a team-high four assists and no turnovers for UC Irvine, for which senior Pavol Losonsky added nine points.
Junior Adam Folker had four points and five rebounds, while freshman Chris McNealy chipped in six rebounds.
"[Wise] had a great game," Turner said. "He's good. I'm glad I've got him. If [the Tritons] had him, they'd have beaten us."
UCI plays host to Concordia, an NAIA school, in an exhibition game Friday at 7:30 p.m.
UC Irvine 77,
UC San Diego 52
UCSD – Ryan 6, Peters 2, Hatch 16, Brue 13, McCann 0, McGrath 6, Wheeler 4, Clark 3, Porter 2 .
3-pt. goals – Elliott 1.
Fouled out – None.
Technicals – None.
UCI – Folker 4, Wise 28, Moore 16, Rembert 10, Starring 2, Losonsky 9, Lalezadeh 5, Kim 2, Flowers 1.
3-pt. goals – Wise 2, Moore 2, Losonsky 1.
Fouled out – None.
Technicals – None.
Halftime: UCI, 29-16.