Thursday, March 9, 2017

Senior Guards lead UC Irvine into Big West Semifinal

Courtesy of Zyaire Porter T.G. Sportstv1 
Anaheim, Calif. – The top-seeded UC Irvine Anteaters (20-13) avoided a second half scare to advance to the semifinals with 76-67 defeat of the eight-seeded UC Riverside Highlanders (7-21) on Thursday night.

The backcourt duo of Luke Nelson and Jaron Martin led the way for the Anteaters. Nelson scored 19 points and dished out five assists with five rebounds. Martin also scored 19 points, 15 of them in the second half that were key to putting the Highlanders away.

One of the keys to victory for the Anteaters was the way they dominated on the glass.  Jonathon Galloway had 13 rebounds with five coming on the offensive end, which gave UCI second opportunities.

“We’re the most efficient offensive team in the league this year,” said UC Irvine Head Coach Russell Turner. “Part of our efficiency is the offensive rebounding. So on nights when the shots don’t go in, we can win extra possessions. We made a great effort to do that and I thought that was key for us.”

UCI was in control for almost the entire game; they had a game-high 14-point margin early in second half but the UC Riverside cut the lead to three points on Johnson’s jumper with 9:37 left in the game. That’s when Martin took over and settled things down.

“I just wanted to lead, that’s my duty as a senior,” said Martin. “Getting these guys calmed down and trying to figure out the best way to win. Down the stretch, I knew I needed to score more and I just tried to do what I needed to.”

Irvine held Riverside to eight made baskets on 30 percent shooting as they held a 10-point lead at halftime. Riverside forward Secean Johnson scored 13 points and half of the makes in the half but the rest of the team couldn’t buy a bucket in the first stanza.

Nelson had most of his servings early in the game as he picked his way through the defense and accumulated 14 of his points in the first half, five of them coming from the free throw line.

“They were trying to play me very aggressively, so as a scorer, I have to learn to adjust but keep playing my game,” said Nelson. “This is the game I love and every game I try to play my best.”

Johnson led UC Riverside in scoring with 22 points. Dikymbe Martin chipped in 12 points and Chance Murray added 11 points. 

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