IRVINE — His coaches have been urging Will Davis to play with a broader base. In Tuesday's 78-67 nonconference men's basketball home win over Seattle, he showed that he just may be the foundation of a brighter future for the program.
The 6-foot-8 freshman had a career-high 21 points on nine-of-10 field-goal shooting in just 23 minutes. He also had a career-high five blocked shots and his 10 rebounds gave him his second double-double of the season.
"He clearly has ability," UCI Coach Russell Turner said of Davis, who had averaged four points and 3.4 rebounds in his previous five contests, during which he made 10 of 33 field-goal tries.
"Like every freshman, the adjustment to college basketball is not easy," Turner said. "But he's a talented young guy who is going to have a great career here. He's intelligent and committed to getting better. And I'm happy he had the game he had tonight, because he had been struggling."
Davis, whose best game came against an old Sacramento High teammate, Seattle senior Cervante Burrell, said UCI coaches have been helping him play bigger than his lanky 210-pound frame might allow against thicker frontcourt foes.
"I used to play straight up," said Davis, who was joined in double-figures by teammates Chris McNealy (13 points), Daman Starring (12) and Mike Wilder (10). "But the coaches have been working with me to stay in a stance and work more down low. It helps me keep more balanced and I can go up with more power to finish my shot."
Davis had three dunks, two tip-ins, a layup and three other jump hooks from about five feet to surpass his previous best of 17 points. He had 15 points after halftime.
"I was playing against a whole bunch of big guys and none of them were like my physique, so it was a lot different against them," Davis said. "My coaches tell me the lowest player wins."
Davis also said greater aggressiveness allowed him to help the 'Eaters improve to 7-13 and end a three-game home losing streak. Their last home win was Dec. 22 against Hope International.
"I haven't been going after rebounds as much, so I tried to go to the glass tonight and pursue the ball," Davis said.
Though Turner wants Davis to add muscle, he believes Davis' lack of bulk helps him against bigger, slower opponents.
"He's a really talented basketball player and a special type of player in [the Big West Conference] because of his size and athleticism," Turner said. "He wants to be good and we're working with him to be a more consistent, competitive performer."
UCI junior Adam Folker showed plenty of determination with a career-high 15 rebounds, seven on the offensive glass. He added seven points and collected some praise from Turner.
"When we've played well, it has been because Adam played well and provided the defensive anchor we have to have," Turner said.
UCI shot 38.4% as a team and was just 16 of 28 from the foul line (57.1%). But it won the rebounding battle, 52-49, and had 14 turnovers, five fewer than the Redhawks (5-13).
"I like the fact that we didn't shoot well and we won," said Turner, whose team held Seattle to 33.3% shooting from the field.
UCI returns to conference play Saturday against visiting UC Riverside at 5 p.m.
UC Irvine 78, Seattle 67
Sea – Broussard 18, Trent 2, Wallace 9, Burrell 6, Carter 9, Obasi 14, Rasmussen 5, Flora 3, Hurt 1.
3-pt. goals – Carter 3, Obasi 1, Rasmussen 1, Flora 1.
Fouled out – Obasi.
Technicals – None.
UCI – Wilder 10, Folker 7, McNealy 13, Starring 12, Flowers 4, Davis 21, Woods 5, Souza 4, Best 2.
3-pt. goals – Starring 2, Wilder 1, Flowers 1, McNealy 1, Woods 1. .
Fouled out – None.
Technicals – None.
Halftime – 36-31, UCI.