IRVINE — A remade UC Irvine men’s basketball team with eight freshmen and no seniors seemed to grow on the Bren Events Center crowd while posting a 66-54 debut exhibition victory over visiting Cal Baptist on Wednesday.
Perhaps more importantly, the Anteaters wore down the Lancers, who are making the move from NAIA to NCAA Division II this season.
Will Davis, one of the fresh-faced freshmen, collected 10 points, 11 rebounds and two blocked shots to help the Anteaters build some momentum as they approach their season opener Nov. 11 at Cal.
Davis, a 6-foot-8, 210-pound forward who did not commit a turnover, had five offensive rebounds in the second half to help UCI overcome a modest shooting performance (35.4% from the field).
Junior Mike Wilder, one of a handful of players who could qualify as known entities on a roster with nine first-year collegians, was an anchor for the Anteaters. The 6-foot-2 swing man had a team-best 13 points, including four three-pointers. Wilder nailed two of his three second-half three-pointers in the final 6:10, when UCI pulled away after Cal Baptist had tied it, 51-51.
Wilder and freshman guard Aaron Wright had five and seven points, respectively, during a surge that saw UCI score 15 straight points to put the game away down the stretch.
Wright had nine points off the bench, adding two assists, two rebounds and one steal.
Sophomore Chris McNealy, one of three returners who started, had eight rebounds, five assists and six points, while freshmen Marcus Bradley and Travis Souza had six points apiece off the bench.
Bradley, a Corona del Mar High product, was among those who earned praise from second-year coach Russell Turner.
“All the young guys kind of did a little of what they can do,” Turner said. “I liked the presence [Bradley] showed on a couple of plays … And I was really impressed to see the way [Davis] pursued the ball off the glass.”
Souza and freshmen Reed McConnell were a combined three for four from three-point range to help the hosts finish nine of 23 from beyond the arc (39.1%). UCI made seven of 15 from threedom in the final 20 minutes, helping them prevail in a game that was close until the final moments.
Cal Baptist, which had just 12 turnovers to match UCI’s total, battled throughout. The score was tied 10 times and the game had four lead changes.
The Lancers led, 25-22, before UCI closed the half with an 11-5 run to take a three-point intermission lead.
UCI scored the first six points of the second half, but saw its lead erased on Ivan Patterson’s steal and layup that knotted things at 51.
UCI junior guard Daman Starring fouled out after compiling six points, five rebounds, three assists and one steal in just 19 minutes.
Mike Best, a 6-10 freshman post, had five points and two rebounds before fouling out in just nine minutes for UCI.
UCI junior Adam Folker did not play (hip injury), but Turner said he is close to returning to the lineup.
Freshman guard Collin Woods, perhaps the most highly touted of the UCI freshmen, had two points and three rebounds in 20 minutes. He was one for six from the field.
UCI plays host to San Diego Christian, an NAIA school, in another exhibition on Saturday at 7 p.m.
UC Irvine 66, Cal Baptist 54
CBU – Evans 8, Deanne 4, Deeb 6, Isley 3, Von Wright 4, Fisk 15, Molivic 13, Patterson 2.
3-pt. goals – Milovic 3, Deeb 2, Fisk 1.
UCI – Wilder 13, Davis 10, McNealy 6, Starring 6, Best 5, Wright 9, Bradley 6, Souza 6, McConnell 3, Woods 2.
3-pt. goals – Wilder 4, Souza 2, Wright 1, Best 1, McConnell 1.
Fouled out – Best, Starring.
Halftime – 33-30, UCI.