Ndaiye, bench pace UCI

Twenty games into a college career already draped with mythology, UC Irvine's 7-foot-6 Goliath has already established some Mamadou's and don'ts.

The don'ts include extreme caution for opponents when entering the vicinity of the basket, before which the Anteaters' wide-eyed leather detector typically anchors himself, his tentacle-like arms raised high to just about rim level.

Ndiaye stood his ground and defended his air space well enough to record seven blocks to help host UCI earn a 72-66 Big West Conference men's basketball victory over Cal State Northridge on Thursday at Bren Events Center. What's more, he produced 10 points and 10 rebounds for the second double-double of his fledgling career.

"He's a pretty good player," UCI Coach Russell Turner said of the native of Dakar, Senegal, who is proving to be the Dakar Knight of defense for a UCI squad that ranks first among Big West rivals in field-goal-percentage defense and blocks per game. "[The Matadors] did a pretty good job of attacking him. They were clearly trying to get him to foul and he's clearly trying to play without fouling. He did a good job of being big, staying vertical and keeping his arms up. He ends up with seven blocks and he didn't have to go get any of them. He made them come to him and he is improving with all that. I'm pleased with his progress."

Ndiaye's seven blocks give him 66 for the season. He began the week ranked ninth nationally in total blocks. One of those blocks came with 1:10 remaining, with the Matadors trying to decrease a 65-60 deficit that was a tenuous three points 48 seconds earlier.

After Ndiaye rebounded his own block in the lane, UCI milked the clock, while Northridge fouled repeatedly to finally put the Anteaters in the bonus. And in the final 43 seconds, the hosts (13-7, 4-0 in conference), who are now 6-0 in 2014 and tied for first in the Big West with Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, made seven of eight foul shots to preserve the win.

The victory appeared all but assured in the first half, when the hosts used a 27-3 run to turn a 5-0 deficit into an 18-point cushion midway through the opening period.

But Northridge (10-10, 2-3) dug in and kept chipping away, closing the deficit to 36-29 at half.

"The way we started, I thought we could have done a better job controlling the game by continuing the high level of defense we had in the first half," Turner said. "But we let [the Matadors] beat us to loose balls and rebounds and that's the strength of Northridge; they just keep coming at you and playing hard."

Ultimately, the most difficult thing proved to be dealing with the Anteaters' defense, which held the Matadors to 34.9% shooting from the field (22 for 63), blocked 13 shots, forced seven turnovers and posted a 42-37 rebounding advantage.

"We're hard to score against if we're doing the things we need to do and there are a lot of reasons for that," Turner said. "We've got good individual defenders and, for the most part, we've shown the ability to be smart and follow a game plan and make adjustments."

Freshman guard Luke Nelson led four UCI starters in double figures with 14 points (including three three-pointers), followed by Chris McNealy (12), Alex Young (10) and Ndiaye.

But UCI also produced a 26-14 advantage in bench scoring as sophomores Aaron Wright (eight points and two steals) and Mike Best (seven points and five rebounds) and junior John Ryan (six points, four blocks and four rebounds) helped UCI absorb a scoreless outing from junior starter Will Davis, who played just 11 minutes.

"I'm really pleased with our bench's performance," Turner said. "All five guys that came off the bench played hard, played smart and played well. And we needed all of them to do that tonight to win."

UCI plays host to Hawaii (13-5, 2-2) on Saturday in the homecoming game at 7 p.m.

Big West Conference

UC Irvine 72, Cal State Northridge 66

CSUN – Maxwell 21, Hale-Edmerson 8, Hicks 10, Greene 8, Drew 5, Parks 14.

3-pt. goals – Drew 1, Parks 1.

Fouled out – None.

Technicals – None.

UCI – Davis 0, Ndiaye 10, McNealy 12, Nelson 14, Young 10, Wright 8, Best 7, Ryan 6, Souza 3, Dunning 2.

3-pt. goals – Nelson 3, McNealy 2, Young 2, Souza 1, Best 1 .

Fouled out – None.

Technicals – None.

Halftime – UCI, 36-29

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