Men's Basketball: 'Eaters roll past Titans

FULLERTON — It was billed as a clash of styles, but the Big West Conference men's basketball matchup between visiting UC Irvine and Cal State Fullerton was more like classic role reversal.

And it was the UCI offense that just seemed to keep on rolling to help forge a surprisingly lopsided 92-65 victory Thursday night. It was, in fact, the Anteaters' largest victory margin in 96 games against their cross-county rivals.

UCI (10-9, 4-2 in the Big West) came in leading the conference in every defensive category, while the Titans (10-7, 3-2) entered as the conference's most potent offense.

But it was UCI's offense that led to a 42-25 first-half blitz that continued after intermission as it continued to expand its lead to the end.

Junior reserve Chris McNealy had 15 points in the first 15 minutes, at which time he had outscored the Titans all by himself. McNealy finished with a game-high 21 points, including five three-pointers in eight attempts. McNealy's six assists shared the team lead and he did not have a turnover in 29 minutes.

UCI was 12 for 27 from threedom on the night, including seven for 14 in the second half to help it finish 35 of 62 form the field (56.5%).

Conversely, the Titans shot 37.9% from the field (22 for 58), despite making half of their 12 three-point tries in the second half. The 65 points for the Titans was their lowest output of the season and nearly 19 fewer than their average coming in.

The 92 points for UCI were its best total against a Division I opponent this season and its third-highest output of the campaign.

UCI senior Daman Starring had 16 points and six assists, while sophomore Will Davis produced 11 points, a team-best nine rebounds and six of the 'Eaters' eight blocked shots. Davis made five of six field-goal attempts.

Senior Mike Wilder had 12 points and eight rebounds, while senior Adam Folker, who sat more than 18 minutes of the first half after picking up two fouls and played just 16 minutes, had nine points and four rebounds for the winners.

"We thought we could play at a high level defensively against them," UCI Coach Russell Turner said, "I'm most pleased with our performance on defense. If you play good defense, it improves your offense and we had a lot of really good performances from a lot of guys."

Turner said shifting Davis from a wing to the center of his 2-3 zone helped solidify the defense.

The win was the third straight for UCI and its first conference road win.

Cal State Fullerton, which came in 5-1 at home, had its three-game winning streak snapped.

The win was UCI's second straight over the Titans, who swept the regular-season series in 2011-12, but were knocked off by the Anteaters in the quarterfinals of the Big West Tournament. McNealy had 24 points in that victory at Honda Center.

Fullerton had defeated UCI the previous three meetings at Titan Gym, each time by six points.

UCI returns to action Saturday at UC Riverside at 7 p.m.


Big West Conference

UC Irvine 92, Cal State Fullerton 65

UCI – Davis 11, Folker 9, Starring 16, Wilder 12, Young 5, McNealy 21, Clifford 6, Souza 6, Flowers 4, Ryan 2.

3-pt. goals – McNealy 5, Wilder 2, Starring 2, Souza 2, Young 1.

Fouled out – None.

Technicals – None.

CSUF – Johnson 10, Vaughn 15, Harris 11, Brandon 7, Seeley 5, Yeager 12, Knox 5.

3-pt. goals – Vaughn 2, Yeager 2, Seeley 1, Knox 1.

Fouled out – None.

Technicals – None.

Halftime – UCI, 42-25.

Twitter: @BarryFaulkner5

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