Flowers shines in win

IRVINE — The fleeting scent of a UC Irvine men's basketball victory Thursday night was rendered even more fragrant with the advent of Derrick Flowers in bloom.

The Anteaters' junior point guard had a career-high nine assists and, combined with a solid performance at UCLA on Tuesday, appears to be making the most of an opening in the starting lineup created by freshman Aaron Wright's right-knee injury four games ago.

Flowers was one of a few bright spots for the Anteaters (3-9), who thumped visiting Hope International, 76-54, to halt a three-game losing streak. It was UCI's second win over an NAIA school this season, as it edged Vanguard, 75-73, at home on Dec. 10.

Freshman Mike Best had a career-high 17 points and was one of six 'Eaters with at least one three-pointer.

Starters Daman Starring and Chris McNealy had 12 and 11 points, respectively, while Adam Folker added eight points and seven rebounds for the winners.

But along with Best, who drained eight of 10 field-goal attempts in 18 minutes, Flowers was the story.

"He's been waiting for an opportunity," Turner said of the 6-foot flash whose quickness with the ball has always been his calling card, even when he struggled with decisions on what to do with it.

"My sophomore year, [Turner] would throw me in there and hope I did something good. And if I did, he'd try to get me out of there before I did something wrong," said Flowers, whose most memorable assist came on a high alley-oop pass to Will Davis. Davis, a 6-8 freshman, soared over a defender to snare the pass, then dunked while being fouled, before sharing a leaping chest bump with Flowers.

"I feel like they are excited to play with me and I'm excited to play with them," Flowers said of his teammates, who like Flowers and Turner, are gaining confidence in their emerging floor leader.

"I felt like UCLA [nine points on four-of-five shooting from the field with three assists and one turnover] was my best game, until tonight, when I was the floor general," Flowers said. "I told everyone where to go and I got some guys some good shots. And I hit a few shots myself."

Flowers was just two of eight from the field, and one of six from three-point range. But he had only three turnovers in 29 minutes.

"[Flowers] is confident in himself," said Turner, who noted Wright is out indefinitely. "He knows that I'm going to roll with him. Confidence for a player is more important really than anything in the game, even skills sometimes. To have consecutive performances like he did is really important for him individually. But it's also important for our team."

Turner was also pleased with his team's defensive effort, as Hope International (7-1), which played the game as an exhibition that did not count on its record, shot 40.9% from the field and had 18 turnovers, three more than UCI.

UCI held Hope without a field goal for 6:39 late in the first half, when it used a 15-2 run to take control. Hope had two field goals the first 8:19 of the second half, as the Anteaters upped a 10-point lead to 66-34, before coasting home with their third win in four home games.

UCI returns to action Thursday with the Big West Conference opener at Cal State Northridge at 7 p.m.



UC Irvine 76,

Hope International 54

HIU – Sanford 6, Jurich 10, Kilgore 8, Rosales 5, Gipson 3, Green 10, Wedge 8, Soto 2, Woods 2.

3-pt. goals – Green 2, Gipson 1, Sanford 1.

Fouled out – None.

Technicals – None.

UCI – Wilder 7, Folker 8, Starring 12, McNealy 11, 7, Flowers 7, Best 17, Davis 7, Woods 5, Souza 2.

3-pt. goals – Starring 3, McNealy 2, Wilder 1, Flowers 1, Woods 1, Best 1.

Fouled out – None

Halftime – 33-23, UCI.

Twiiter: BarryFaulkner5

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