Logic would suggest that Anteaters are accustomed to digging in holes, and the UC Irvine men's basketball team showed it could dig out of at least one substantial hole Saturday night.
Unfortunately for UCI, it couldn't repeat the feat after visiting Boston University answered a prolonged and impressive rally with a winning burst of its own to claim a 74-68 victory on the second day of the three-day 2K Sports Classic at the Bren Events Center.
BU, which lost in Friday's first game to Eastern Washington, bolted to a 15-0 lead against the 'Eaters, who missed their first seven field-goal attempts and were scoreless until 12:01 remained in the first half.
Barry Faulkner Signature
From there, UCI (3-3), which saw its three-game winning streak come to an end, chipped away at the deficit that was just 33-25 at halftime. The 'Eaters used a 15-5 run early in the second half to pull even, 40-40, then earn their only lead, 42-40, the latter with 13 minutes left in the game.
But the Terriers (3-2) showed some fight of their own by producing a 17-2 spurt that built what proved to be an insurmountable 57-44 advantage with 8:26 left.
UCI, which made just nine of 23 field-goal attempts in the first half, finished with its worst shooting night of the season (42.9% on 27-of-63 shooting from the field). UCI came in shooting 54.9% for the season and had made at least half of its field-goal attempts in each of its first five contests.
Meanwhile, BU, which netted 10 of 18 shots from behind the three-point line (55.6%), was 14 of 30 inside the arc to finish 24 of 48 from the field.
That was enough to offset UCI's 36-29 rebounding edge, as well as a 15-11 advantage in the turnover department.
The reason for the slow start wasn't difficult to pinpoint for UCI Coach Russell Turner, whose team has now dropped two home games, one more than it did all last season.
"I don't think we lost the game at the start, but I think we showed that [the Terriers] were more ready to play than we were, and that's disappointing," Turner said. "I think that's human nature a little bit, when you have success to let up and that's probably what happened to us. I thought we were just way too cool to start the game. And that's not the way you win in college basketball."
BU's chief tool to carve out a victory was ball movement, which it continually used to create open shots, Meanwhile, the Terriers' defense seemed to frustrate UCI, which forced countless shots, particularly on drives inside by their guards.
While sophomore reserve guard Aaron Wright was three for three from the field and two for two from the foul line to help key the Anteaters' comeback, guards Alex Young, Luke Nelson and Dominique Dunning were a combined five for 24 from the field (20.8%), including at least a half-dozen shots that were thrown up awkwardly near the rim.
"It's expected you can fight back at home and we did that," Turner said. "Then I had tired guys on the floor and when I subbed them out, we didn't get any defensive stops … I thought defensively we were, in general, just not good enough … And then we compounded that with some offensive possessions on which we weren't getting high-percentage shots. When we didn't make them, we let that affect our level."
Mamadou Ndiaye, a 7-foot-6 freshman center, made four of five field-goal tries on his way to 11 points and also chipped in seven rebounds and one block.
Junior Will Davis (six of 10 from the field) finished with 12 points, eight rebounds, two assists, one block and one steal, while senior Chris McNealy had 10 points and eight boards, though he was five of 12 from the field.
Young had seven points and seven assists and junior Travis Souza, who netted three three-pointers in the final 1:33, had nine points.
D.J. Irving, who sank three of four from threedom, led the winners with 18 points, followed by 6-7 wide-body Dom Morris, who had 17 points and six boards.
UCI closes out the three-day event on Sunday against Eastern Washington (4-1), at 4 p.m. at the Bren.
Boston 74, UC Irvine 68
BU – Morris 17, Dieudonne 7, Irvine 18, Watson 4, Papale 0, Thomas 12, Robinson 9, Haines 5, Hankerson 2.
3-pt. goals – Irving 3, Robinson 3, Morris 1, Dieudonne 1, Thomas 1, Haines 1.
Fouled out – None.
Technicals – None.
UCI – Davis 12, Ndiaye 11, McNealy 10, Young 7, Nelson 7, Souza 9, Wright 8, Dunning 2, Ryan 2.
3-pt. goals – Souza 3, Nelson 1.
Fouled out – None.
Technicals – None.
Halftime – BU, 33-25.