With its second tallest starter measuring 6-foot-4 and facing a UC Irvine team that can drive 6-11, 6-9, 6-9 across the front line, USD knew it was literally ahead of the anteaters on Saturday night a great task.
It turned out that the toreros couldn’t keep up. UC Irvine dominated the game from the start, harassing USD 85-53 at the Bren Events Center. You didn’t have to check the boxing score to see where the game was decided.
The toreros were outdone 44-23. Color points: UCI 42, USD 18. Second chance points: Anteaters 17, Toreros 3.
The toreros tried to play man-to-man and grew muscular inside. They tried to double the post and were beaten when the great anteaters kicked the ball outside for open 3s. They tried Zone, which was effective for a while, but not for long.
“We have to do all of these things better,” said USD head coach Sam Scholl over the phone. “We have to hit the posts (the opponent) to catch them. We need to refuse more catches, do our job sooner. Just be a little more physical and tougher. “
The USD fell to 1-3. The win was UC Irvine’s first against a Division I opponent, the anteaters improving to 3-4.
The game was spinning quickly. Less than two minutes in UCI led 7-0. The mid-term deficit was 34-15. The toreros had already been surpassed 31-9 and shot a sad 20 percent (5 out of 25).
The USD played much better offensive in the second half, but the defense fell apart. UCI opened halftime with 14 of their first 18 shots (77.8 percent). Even after the anteaters emptied the bank, the hosts shot 62.5 percent (20 out of 32) in the second half.
“I think when we couldn’t score consistently enough it ultimately broke our defense,” said Scholl. “How do you give yourself a chance to win when the shots don’t go in? You have to defend harder.
“You have to do whatever you can to get the ball in the paint (offensively), make sure you hit the free-throw line and don’t settle for so many perimeter jumpers.”
When the toreros attacked the basket and were fouled, they took advantage and hit 16 of 20 free throws. Joey Calcaterra led the USD with 14 points.
Jared Rodriguez played his second game after a hamstring injury and scored 10 points.
Yauhen Massalski, USD’s top insider, averaged 10.3 rebounds and six points. He was held to two points and three rebounds.
USD met a motivated UC Irvine team. The anteaters, who had averaged 20.9 wins over the last 10 seasons by head coach Russell Turner and were selected to win the Big West, suffered an ugly 51-48 loss to LMU.
Norcross is a freelance writer.