The UCI Men’s Basketball team (0-1) suffered a close defeat in the season opener against the defensive-minded San Jose State Spartans (1-0) at the Provident Credit Union Event Center in San Jose, Calif. on Tuesday, Nov. 7.
In the previous exhibition match against CSU San Marcos on Nov. 3, UCI came away with a comfortable win that saw 14 players on the scoreboard. However, against the Spartans, the ‘Eaters were marred by unforced turnovers, missed layups and free throws. Capitalizing on these opportunities could have certainly turned the tide in the Anteaters’ favor, but they fell short.
The ‘Eaters struck first in the game with a three-pointer from redshirt senior guard Justin Hohn, but were then quickly shunned into shooting drought for four minutes. The Spartans, who boasted both size and proactive defensive schemes, matched the ‘Eaters strengths. When the ‘Eaters tried to go to their bread-and-butter, dishing the ball to junior center Bent Leuchten in the post, he faced a swift double team. Leuchten was often forced to shoot a heavily contested shot or send the ball straight back to the three-point line.
Redshirt junior forward Devin Tillis broke UCI’s scoring drought with a well-maneuvered layup, followed by freshman guard Derin Saran’s first collegiate basket. Soon after SJSU’s consistent double teams in the post, the ‘Eaters employed their own tactical defensive scheme, a full court press designed to force turnovers. Although it worked wonders against CSU San Marcos, the Spartans held their composure and the ‘Eaters were forced to retreat into the frontcourt.
By the end of the first half, the ‘Eaters and Spartans, through excellent defense, headed into the break at a stalemate. The ‘Eaters missed out on five layups and five free throws that would’ve established a comfortable lead over the Spartans.
Opening the second half, both teams scored in quick succession. However, the Spartans gained all the momentum, putting together an 8-0 run behind the back of junior forward Tibet Görener, who managed four of the eight points. The ‘Eaters responded with a timely three-pointer from Hohn, followed by a dunk from senior guard Andre Henry that cut the Spartan lead down to four.
Unfortunately, as soon as the ‘Eaters closed the gap, the Spartans erupted for seven straight points and ballooned their lead to 13 points with 12 minutes left in the game. With 11 minutes left in the game, the ‘Eaters caught a lucky break. SJSU sophomore center Adrame Diongue, fouled out of the game and UCI was thrusted into the bonus, meaning every foul committed by the Spartans resulted in a one-and-one free throw. Without a formidable center to challenge him, Leuchten immediately used his height to drive into the paint and draw two fouls for four easy points.
The Spartans and ‘Eaters traded buckets until the seven minute mark. The ‘Eaters briefly cut the lead down to three points thanks to Tillis’ swift agility in the paint. However, the Spartans seemingly had a response to all of UCI’s runs.
Immediately after the Tillis basket, SJSU sophomore forward William Humer sank his first three of the night, putting the Spartans up by six. The basket was a gut-wrenching pill to swallow for the ‘Eaters, giving the Spartans a six point lead with six minutes left, shifting the momentum to the home side.
Despite the ‘Eaters best efforts, they ran out of gas, never getting the deficit below four for the remainder of the match. The Spartans managed to hold strong their lead and avoided foul trouble for the rest of the game. The game ended with a UCI defeat, 64-72.
At their following game, the ‘Eaters managed to fend off New Mexico State, 91-74, on Saturday, Nov. 11 for “Defend the Bren” night at the Bren Events Center in Irvine, CA.
Jason Garcia Escobar is a Sports Staff Writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.