Men's Basketball: 'Eaters falter in big way

RIVERSIDE — There is taking what the opponent gives you and there is taking what you simply decide the opponent can't deny you.

UC Riverside accomplished the latter in handing visiting UC Irvine a 68-58 Big West Conference men's basketball defeat Saturday.

The Highlanders (5-13, 2-4 in conference), who had lost three straight against Big West competition, dominated inside and shot better from the perimeter to halt the Anteaters' three-game conference winning streak that had allowed them to earn a share for second place entering Saturday.

UCI (10-10, 4-3) made just six of 30 field-goal tries in the first half to surrender a 29-18 lead.

Riverside, which made six three-pointers in the opening 20 minutes, then went inside after intermission to rip the 'Eaters apart.

"Our big guys were relatively ineffective the whole game and I'm disappointed in that," UCI Coach Russell Turner said of a starting front court of Adam Folker, Will Davis and Mike Wilder that combined to produce 12 points, 25 rebounds, make five of 21 from the field and zero of three from the foul line.

Conversely, Riverside's 6-foot-10 junior center Chris Patton had 21 points, matching a career high he established in the Highlanders' 91-82 overtime loss to conference-leading Long Beach State on Thursday. Add in Chris Harriel and Josh Fox and the UCR "bigs" amassed 48 points, 20 rebounds, made 15 of 36 field-goal attempts and were 14 of 17 from the free-throw stripe.

"I felt like we were a physically weak team in traffic," Turner said. "It was a physical game … We didn't respond to that type of game the way they did."

Harriel made three three-pointers to help the hosts seize a 9-2 lead, but UCI rebounded for a 14-11 advantage. But a 13-0 run put the Highlanders back on top and they scored the final four points of the half to capture further momentum.

But UCI opened the second half on a 13-4 run to pull within 33-31, before freshman reserve forward Taylor Johns added to the hosts' inside advantage by scoring five straight points, the last two on a putback. Then, Patton began collecting his 17 second-half points, all in the elevator shaft around the basket.

"He's playing harder in there," Riverside Coach Jim Wooldridge said of Patton, an Australian import and community college transfer playing his first season for the Highlanders. "He's a new player to this level and he's learning how to make his way."

Patton repeatedly had his way in the paint, where the hosts outscored UCI, 26-16. Riverside also posted a 43-38 rebounding edge and used five of its eight offensive boards to earn a 10-0 advantage on second-chance points.

"I don't think any bigs in the conference can hang with me, [Harriel, Fox and Johns] when we are all being aggressive," Patton said. "And our guards were doing a good job getting us the ball. I mean, we were pretty much shooting layups."

UCI senior guard Daman Starring had 20 second-half points to pace the 'Eaters. He made seven of nine free-throw attempts and three three-pointers.

A three-pointer by freshman guard Alex Young pulled UCI within 56-51, with 3:53 left, but it never got any closer.

UCI shot 31.7% for the game, but was just seven of 32 from three-point range (21.9%).

It was UCI's fourth straight loss at Riverside, where it last won in 2009.


Big West Conference

UC Riverside 68, Irvine 58

UCI – Davis 2, Folker 4, Starring 22, Young 9, Wilder 6, McNealy 8, Souza 3, Flowers 2, Clifford 2.

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

Fouled out – None.

Technicals – None.

UCR – Harriel 17, Fox 10, Patton 21, Smith 7, Jones 0, Owens 6, Johns 5, Devenny 2.

3-pt. goals – Harriel 4, Owens 2.

Fouled out – None.

Technicals – Patton 1.

Halftime – UCR, 29-18.

Twitter: @BarryFaulkner5

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