Titans hold off 'Eaters

IRVINE — UC Irvine men's basketball coach Russell Turner said visiting Cal State Fullerton was allowed to explode to a 30-point first-half lead because the Anteaters never made the Titans feel them.

But after feeling close to invincible in the opening 20 minutes — making 21 of 33 field-goal attempts, including nine of 14 three-point tries and amassing a 22-8 rebounding advantage to claim a 56-30 intermission lead — the Anteaters' Big West Conference and Orange County rivals felt something significantly less comforting down the stretch.

UCI (6-13, 3-4 in conference) made Fullerton (12-6, 4-2) feel a shade of insecurity, if not downright pressure, by rallying furiously at the Bren Events Center.

The 'Eaters held the Titans without a field goal for nearly the first seven minutes of the second half and drained 10 of 16 three-pointers in the final period to eventually pare the deficit to 87-81 with 58 seconds left.

But that was as close at UCI came, as the Titans halted a four-game road losing streak with a 92-84 victory.

It was the third straight home setback for UCI, which had 22 assists on its 28 field goals and forced two more turnovers than the 15 it committed.

UCI posted a 23-15 rebounding advantage and picked up its defensive intensity after halftime. But its first-half hole proved to be too deep, as the Titans prevailed behind a strong trio of Bay Area transfers.

Former Cal Golden Bears Omondi Amoke (23 points and 17 rebounds) and D.J. Seeley (27 points on nine of 14 field-goal shooting, including six for six from threedom) were bolstered by Don Kwame Vaughn (25 points, including draining four of five from three-point range), formerly of USF.

The scoring and rebounding totals were season highs for Amoke, while Seeley also had his season-high point total.

"The guy who was an absolute man was Amoke," said Titans Coach Bob Thornton, who called his team's first-half ambush perhaps the finest 20 minutes by any team during his nine-season tenure at the school.

"I don't think we could have played any better than we played in the first half," Burton said. "We were playing so well and shooting the ball so well, it was just unbelievable."

Turner also credited the Titans, but took issue with his team's defensive effort in the opening half.

"[The Titans] did play well, but we didn't make them feel us," Turner said. "If a team goes off on you like that, it's usually because they play well and you allow them to play well. That's what we did."

Junior guard Daman Starring had 17 of his team-best 23 points after halftime. He wound up six for nine from three-point range.

Junior guard Derick Flowers had 13 of his 18 points after halftime. He was six for nine from the field, including three for five from threedom.

Flowers and Starring had six assists apiece, while Wilder finished with 17 points, just six coming in the final 20 minutes.

Sophomore Chris McNealy had six points, six rebounds and five assists, while junior forward Adam Folker chipped in nine points and six rebounds.

UC Irvine plays its next four games at home, beginning Tuesday against nonconference foe Seattle at 7 p.m.


Twitter: @BarryFaulkner5


Big West Conference

Cal State Fullerton 92, UC Irvine 84

CSF – Amoke 23, Chin 5, Seeley 27, Vaughn 25, Umipig 5, Martin 4, Brown 3.

3-pt. goals – Seeley 6, Vaughn 4, Umipig 1, Brown 1, Chin 1.

Fouled out – Chin.

Technicals – None.

UCI – Wilder 17, Folker 9, Starring 23, Flowers 18, McNealy 6, Woods 7, Davis 2, Best 2.

3-pt. goals – Starring 6, Wilder 4, Flowers 3, Woods 1.

Fouled out – Folker.

Technicals – None.

Halftime – 56-30, CSF.

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