SAN JOSE — The points in the paint were there as usual, but several things the UC Irvine men’s basketball program prides itself on were absent in a 72-64 loss to San Jose State in the season opener for both teams on Tuesday night at SJSU.
Bent Leuchten had 14 points and six rebounds and Devin Tillis added 12 points, but the Anteaters fell behind in a more fast-paced second half and could not catch the Spartans down the stretch.
UCI scored 38 points in the paint but shot just 2 for 12 from 3-point range and 16 for 26 from the free-throw line, allowed 48 points after halftime and finished with more turnovers (15) than assists (11). San Jose State shot 46% from the field, an uncharacteristically high percentage for a UCI opponent.
“We got beat by a better, tougher team tonight,” UCI coach Russell Turner said. “We played some pretty good defense in the first half but could not put it together on both ends. We need to be tougher, hungrier, execute better, and more together.”
Trey Anderson had 19 points on 7-of-9 shooting to pace San Jose, while Tibet Gorener went 3 for 4 from 3-point range and had 17 points and five rebounds. Myron Amey Jr. had 12 points, going 6 for 6 from the free-throw line, and Alvaro Cardenas finished with 11 points and seven assists.
The teams were tied at 24-all at halftime, but the Spartans went on an 8-0 run a few minutes into the second half and never relinquished the lead. They added a 9-0 run in a 90-second span to extend their lead to 13 points with 12:12 left.
Leuchten scored seven straight points for the Anteaters to cut the margin to 50-44, and Dean Keeler got them within 57-53 with 5:47 left, but a Cardenas jumper started a 7-1 San Jose run and the Spartans were able to maintain at least a five-point cushion the rest of the way.
Justin Hohn and Derin Saran added eight points each for UCI. Ten of the 12 players who suited up for the Anteaters played at least 11 minutes.
New Mexico State at UC Irvine, 7 p.m.
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