IRVINE — It wasn't the box score, so much as the roster that UC Irvine men's basketball coach Russell Turner used to sum up his team's 66-50 Big West Conference loss to visiting Cal Poly San Luis Obispo on Thursday.
"The one thing I take from this is that we need to get stronger," said Turner, whose team (6-11, 3-2 in conference) was hurt most by Cal Poly big men Will Taylor (16 points), David Hanson (16 points and 12 rebounds and four assists) and Chris Eversley (11 points and eight boards).
"You look at the strength of Cal Poly and it got tonight what has been its winning formula," Turner said. "[The Mustangs (11-6, 2-1) got Hanson and Taylor, and Eversley off the bench. All those guys are fours and fives for them, inside players, and that was the story of the game. I think their interior players outplayed our interior players by a fair amount."
Taylor, a 6-7, 230-pound senior, was eight of 13 from the field, while Hanson, a 6-5, 215-pound senior, had 11 points in the second half and finished six of 10 from the field. Eversley, a 6-6, 210-pound redshirt sophomore, displayed the kind of inside muscle that helped the Mustangs break away from a halftime deadlock.
Cal Poly amassed a 43-34 rebounding edge.
UCI frontline starters Mike Wilder and Adam Folker combined to post nine points and eight rebounds, while freshman reserve Mike Best, 6-10, but rail thin, missed all three of his field-goal attempts and managed just one rebound in 10 minutes.
UCI's Will Davis, a 6-8, 210-pound freshman, had 13 points and four rebounds off the bench. He had four dunks to help energize a crowd that Turner called the best of the season.
Junior guard Daman Starring led UCI with 15 points, hitting half of his 14 field-goal attempts.
"[The Mustangs] were the aggressors, throughout the second half, especially," Turner said. "They imposed their will on us, which is disappointing. I give them credit, they are a physically strong team, a mentally strong team and they played an excellent game.
"I'm disappointed because this is the game we had a good crowd for. This is easily the best crowd we've had [1,790, and loud with a spirited student section]. We got beat the second half and it didn't look very good as we got beat, I didn't think. Our team can be a good team. But we weren't a good team the second half. Give [the Mustangs] credit, they had a lot to do with that."
Cal Poly opened the second with an 11-5 run to create a lead and later held UCI scoreless for a span of 6:24, during which the visitors scored eight points to push their advantage to 18.
UCI was 11 of 31 from the field after halftime, including just three for 13 from three-point range. The Anteaters, who came in shooting 37.4% from threedom, second-best in the conference, finished just six of 23 (26.1%).
Turner said his team's shooting woes carried over into a lack of defensive effectiveness in the final 20 minutes.
"As sometimes happens when you don't score, you allow that to affect your defensive intent or focus and you can end up giving up 42 points and 48% [field-goal shooting] in a half to a good team like Cal Poly," Turner said.
UCI junior guard Derick Flowers (nine points and a team-best five assists) was three for six from beyond the arc. The rest of the 'Eaters were three for 17 on three-point tries.
UCI, which has beaten only one Division I team in six home games, will visit UC Santa Barbara on Saturday at 7 p.m., before beginning a string of five straight home contests.
Big West Conference
Cal Poly SLO 66, UC Irvine 50
CPSLO – Hanson 16, Taylor 16, Royer 8, Fermin 7, U'u 0, Eversley 11, Love 3, Odister 3, Lewis 2.
3-pt. goals – Hanson 2, Royer 2, Fermin 1, Odister 1.
UCI – Wilder 6, Folker 3, Starring 15, McNealy 0, Flowers 9, Davis 13, Woods 2, Souza 2.
3-pt. goals – Flowers 3, Wilder 2, Starring 1.
Halftime – 24-24.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun