Colleges: 'Eaters relish victory

If, as most believe, losing can be a valuable teacher, then the UC Irvine men's basketball team was as ready for Saturday's 99-79 win over visiting San Diego as it would like to be for this week's academic finals.

Coach Russell Turner's Anteaters ended their six-game drought to begin the season in impressive fashion, draining shots, sharing the ball, maintaining defensive intensity and leaving the Toreros (4-3) wondering if that 0-6 on the UCI stat sheet may have been some kind of cruel typo.

Having lost their only previous home game before Saturday, it was clearly good for the seven freshmen on the UCI roster to experience not only victory, but a commanding triumph that left Turner little with which to quibble.

"We had a number of people perform at a high level," Turner said. "What I saw us do was make the plays we should make."

UCI's four leading scorers (Mike Wilder with 19, Chris McNealy (16), Will Davis (15) and Adam Folker (11) combined to make 25 of 27 field-goal attempts to help the 'Eaters shoot 61.9% as a team.

Another factor was the strong play of freshman Aaron Wright, who for now has assumed the starting point guard role. Wright had eight points, seven assists, six rebounds, one steal and only two turnovers in 28 minutes.

"I believe in Aaron Wright," Turner said. "He's not a perfect player yet, but he's talented. He's big, he can guard, rebound, and he can see plays. He had a good performance tonight, I've got to make sure he gets better."

Turner was clearly relieved to end the winless streak, but said the triumph, no matter how dominant, would not earn his players any extra time off as they crack down for finals before facing Vanguard on Saturday night at the Bren Events Center.

"We can't really take days off right now," Turner said.

Vanguard (6-4) is coached by Rhett Soliday, who spent four seasons on the UCI staff before taking over the Lions' program for the 2010-11 season.

Another former UCI assistant, Tod Murphy, who also starred as a player for the Anteaters (the school's No. 2 all-time scorer), will bring his Gordon College team (from Wenham, Mass.) to Vanguard. Murphy's squad will meet the Lions on Dec. 29 as part of the Bill Reynolds Holiday Classic.

Nearly as impressive Saturday was the UCI women's team's 88-82 come-from-behind win over visiting Santa Clara.

The Broncos came in 6-1 and shot 53.4%. But UCI scored the final 10 points of the contest to improve to 3-5 and post its third win in its last four games.

UCI Coach Molly Goodenbour said the emergence of senior Kassandra McAlister at point guard has helped spur the recent success.

McAlister, who had 29 points in a Nov. 25 loss at Oregon, scored all 19 of her points after halftime to help UCI erase a 43-38 deficit at intermission. She also had nine assists, four rebounds and three steals, while committing just two turnovers in 27 minutes.

"[McAlister] is really the difference in where we're at now and where we were the first four or five games this season," Goodenbour said. "She is getting more comfortable as a point guard after never having played the position on a full-time basis before."

Goodenbour was particularly pleased to beat a strong Santa Clara squad.

"That was a good win for us and I'm really, really pleased," Goodenbour said. "I'm really happy for the girls. They've gotten better. We're starting to build a foundation. Hopefully, we can just keep improving."

Reed Williams, a Corona del Mar High product and a sophomore forward for the UCLA men's soccer team, picked a good time to score his first goal of the season on Saturday.

Williams netted the game-winner in double overtime to propel the Bruins to a 1-0 NCAA quarterfinal win over host Louisville.

UCLA (18-4-1) advances to the four-team College Cup. It will meet top-seeded North Carolina on Friday. Creighton and Charlotte round out the field.

CdM High product Erik Rask, a senior linebacker and captain at Penn, was one of two finalists for Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year in football.

Rask, a first-team All-Ivy performer that last two seasons, had a team-best 83 tackles, including 11.5 for losses and 2.5 sacks.

He helped the Quakers to a 5-5 season.

Harvard's Josue Ortiz won the award.

Twitter: @BarryFaulkner5

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