February 16, 2013

UC Irvine Runs Past Fullerton, 86-66

IRVINE, Calif. -- Daman Starring scored a game-high 21 points on seven made three-pointers while Will Davis II finished with a double-double of 10 points and 11 rebounds Saturday night, lifting host UC Irvine to an 86-66 victory over Cal State Fullerton at the Bren Events Center.

Sophomore James Douglas scored a Titan career-high of 14 points to lead Fullerton (12-13 overall, 5-8 in the Big West Conference) off the bench while sophomore Alex Harris added 12 points to finish as the only Titan players in double figures. Freshman Jared Brandon, who set a career high with 10 rebounds at Long Beach State on Wednesday, finished with nine points and a team-high six rebounds. Brandon, Douglas, and Harris also had three steals apiece, combining for nine of the team's 12 swipes on the night.

Cal State Fullerton's "big three" of D.J. Seeley, Kwame Vaughn, and Sammy Yeager -- all of whom rank among the league's top 10 in scoring -- finished with a combined 19 points on 6-of-26 shooting for the game.

The Titans suffered their seventh loss in their last nine outings, falling by 20 points-or-more in back-to-back games for the first time since the 2001-02 season at Cal State Northridge (92-68) on Jan. 24 and at Pacific on Jan. 26 (82-48).

The Anteaters (14-13, 8-6) finished with four players in double figures as Adam Folker finished 9-of-10 from the floor for 18 points while Alex Young added 16 points and seven of UCI's 26 assists (on 34 makes). Chris McNealy, who scored 21 points in Irvine's 27-point win at Titan Gym on Jan. 17, finished with just seven points, but grabbed 10 rebounds.

Fullerton trailed by only two points at 14-12 midway through the first half, but back-to-back three pointers by Starring jumpstarted a deciding 10-2 run that put the Anteaters up by double digits at 24-14 just three minutes later. The lead grew to as many as 13 points in the opening half, but a 7-0 burst by the Titans helped them claw back to within six points at 30-24 with 1:43 to play. That, however, would be as close as Fullerton would get the rest of the game as Irvine closed the half on an 8-0 run, capped by a three-pointer by Starring from near half court that received a friendly bounce and fell in at the buzzer, for a 38-24 halftime advantage.

The Anteaters scored the first four points of the second half to push the lead to 18 points and UC Irvine led by as many as 31 points in the period with just under four minutes to play. After starting 2-of-8 from the field, the Titans hit their next five-straight field goals, using a 12-2 spurt to come back to within 12 points at 56-44 with 11:22 remaining, but the Anteaters pulled away quickly, exploding for a 17-3 run over a four-plus minute span to push the lead back to 26 points and they never looked back.

Trailing by its largest margin of the game, Cal State Fullerton closed strong, scoring 13 of the final 15 points of the game -- 10 of those by the duo of Deuce Johnson and Chris Collins -- but the hole was already too deep. The Titans forced nine turnovers in the second half, turning those into 17 points, and shot just over 48 percent in the period to help recover from an 8-for-26 (.308) performance in the first half.

UC Irvine shot 51.5 percent for the game, including a 62 percent clip in the second half, while hitting on 44 percent of its shots from beyond the arc.

Every player who entered the game for Fullerton scored at least two points, including a career-high tying five-point, three-rebound night for Collins.

The Titans tip-off a string of three home games in their next four contests on Wednesday (Feb. 20) at 7:05 p.m., taking on Cal Poly for the first time this season at Titan Gym. Fullerton then hits the road to meet Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Saturday (Feb. 23) at 11 a.m. PT as part of the ESPNU Ramada Worldwide BracketBusters series.