With two teams firing in threes and draining the majority of their shots, including two three-pointers in the final 2.1 seconds, the most glaring miss was the opportunity to begin what may be a landmark UC Irvine men's basketball season with a victory Friday night.
The Anteaters, who led for most of the contest and never trailed by more than one, fell to visiting Fresno State, 98-97, when senior guard Allen Huddleston banked in a leaning, 42-foot three-pointer just before the buzzer in overtime, the last of 25 combined three-pointers in the nonconference season opener for both teams at the Bren Events Center.
The energetic crowd of 3,241 exited mostly in stunned silence, as Fresno State players taunted the UCI student section by plucking and popping the front of their jerseys and pounding their chests.
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"If we would have made that last shot, we probably would have done that too," said UCI Coach Russell Turner, who was miffed by his team's lack of perimeter defense for much of the game, though not in the final sequence.
"We defended the last shot better than we defended others throughout the game and the kid made it anyway," Turner said. "We played [Huddleston, who had two of the Bulldogs' 14 three-pointers and produced 12 points off the bench]. We fully contested that shot, one of the few we fully contested tonight, and he made it. Good for him."
UCI sophomore Alex Young was the would-be hero, having netted a step-back three near the top of the free-throw circle with 2.1 seconds left that gave UCI a 98-96 lead.
Six of the last eight field goals were three-pointers, three by each team, and both teams also utilized the three ball late in regulation.
Two of UCI's final four field goals in regulation were three-pointers, spanning the final 5:43. And the 'Eaters made five of six foul shots in the final 3:06, but still couldn't hold a lead that was 10 at halftime and was as much as 12 late in the first half.
Fresno State made 10 three-pointers after halftime, including two in the final 34 seconds of regulation, to force the extra session.
Cezar Guerrero, a sophomore transfer from Oklahoma State, made four of his five threes in the second half on his way to 23 points. His three-pointer with 34 seconds left pulled the Bulldogs within 83-82.
Travis Souza answered with a pair of free throws with 31 ticks remaining, but sophomore Marvelle Harris, who made three of five three-point tries after intermission, connected from beyond the arc with 18 seconds left to knot the score at 85-85. Harris led all scorers with 30 and was six for six from the foul line, from where his team was 18 of 24.
UCI freshman Luke Nelson (eight points in his collegiate debut) missed a three-point attempt in the final second of regulation and Senior Chris McNealy's follow tip before the buzzer also missed.
UCI was 14 of 29 on free-throws with 7-foot-6 freshman center Mamadou Ndiaye (five points, four rebounds) making just three of 10
The two teams swapped leads early in overtime trading four combined three-pointers, with freshman forward Paul Watson capping the spurt to put Fresno State ahead, 95-93, with 55 seconds left in overtime.
McNealy, who finished with a career-high 27 points, hit and 18-foot jumper with 40 seconds left and, after a Fresno layin, Young, who tied his career high with 20 points, sank his fourth three ball in seven attempts to send the crowd into a frenzy.
Huddleston's winning three was reviewed by officials on a courtside monitor, before the victory was officially credited to Fresno State.
"It was a great college basketball game," Turner said. "But, as they say, it was unfortunate that someone had to lose and the basketball gods weren't with us tonight. We had a great crowd and we missed an opportunity to perform at a high enough level to send everybody out of here happy."
Souza had 13 points off the bench and Will Davis, who fouled out with 2:46 to go in regulation, finished with 16 rebounds and 10 points for UCI.
The 'Eaters posted a 45-32 rebounding edge, and shot 50.7% from the field (26 for 71), including 11 of 24 from threedom (45.8%).
The Bulldogs hit 33 of 64 field-goal tries (51.6%), and netted 14 of 30 three-point attempts (46.7%).