March 8, 2012
Anaheim, Calif. -
Omondi Amoke set a tournament record with 21 rebounds and Orane Chin scored 20 points in what could be both seniors' final collegiate games as No. 7 seed UC Irvine upset the No. 2 seed Titans, 65-59, Thursday afternoon in the opening round of the Big West Conference Tournament at the Honda Center.
Chris McNealy scored a career-high 24 points and Adam Folker had 10 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Anteaters (12-19), who advance to the second round Friday. Kwame Vaughn and D.J. Seeley each had 12 points for the Titans (21-9), who scored a season-low in points and shot only 37 percent, 25 percent from the 3-point line. Isiah Umipig had only 2 points on 1 of 8 shooting.
Fullerton never led in the game but had a couple of chances to tie down the stretch only to come up empty. UCI made 10 of 22 treys led by McNealy with 4 of 7, each seemingly when the Titans were drawing near. McNealy made 5 of 6 free throws in the final 34 seconds.
UCI hit 5 of its first 6 tries from the 3-point line and quickly opened a double-digit lead at 15-4 a little more than 4 minutes into the game. The Anteaters led by as many as 12 points and were up at the half by 8. They went up by 11 after Wilder opened the second half with a trey.
"This is one of the lowest points since I've been here," said Fullerton Coach Bob Burton. "I didn't know if we could have won the tournament but we had a chance since we had beaten everybody.
"I thought we were too loose, not ready to play, and that's my fault. If I wasn't coaching Fullerton I would have been rooting for Irvine because they played so hard and were so tough. We didn't look as hungry... and weren't aggressive offensively.
"I thought there was a little hangover effect from the Long Beach win."
Fullerton had beaten UCI twice in the regular season, 92-84 at UCI and 100-94 in Fullerton, and was 6-1 vs. UCI in the tournament's past.
"We were juiced off the Long Beach win but by Tuesday we were ready for Irvine and started working on that," said Amoke, whose previous career high was 17 in the win at UCI. He missed the rematch with an ankle injury.
"I pride myself on outhustling and outrebounding my opponent. I was 4-for-12 shooting so I was trying to get on the boards and get us some extra possessions."
Chin scored 15 of his points in the second half and was 3-for-3 at the 3-point line compared to his teammates' totals of 2-for-17.
"They zoned in our guards so I was left open and hit some open shots," said Chin. "We weren't aggressive and didn't get the ball into the paint and it showed."
"I think there might be some more basketball in us," said Burton, in reference to some of the non-NCAA tourneys.
If there are no more games, Seeley came up shy of the school record for 3-point field goal percentage. He began the day at .444 but went 0-for-3. Don Leary has the school record at .443.
Amoke was well shy of the school rebounding record of 27 by Kerry Davis in 1975 vs. Central Michigan.