UC Irvine wins, spoils Dikymbe Martin’s return for UC Riverside
By Brian Robin
RIVERSIDE — Dikymbe Martin was back for UC Riverside, sprung from a six-game suspension for a violation of team rules. Alex Larsson was back for the Highlanders, sprung from three games on the sidelines as a byproduct of an ankle injury suffered the last time he went up against UC Irvine and its conga line of big men.
But also returning Saturday night to the Student Recreation Center at UCR were the Anteaters and their stifling defense, which took much of the buzz out of Martin’s return, UCR’s first Big West Conference win on Wednesday and the rest of the Highlanders’ offense. And with that, UCI took away a grinding, 62-52 Big West victory.
The victory was the Anteaters’ eighth straight over UCR (6-18, 1-9) and 12th in the last 13 meetings. It comes 2½ weeks after UCI dismantled the Highlanders 79-40. And it came in predictable fashion for the Anteaters, who hold teams to 38.8 percent shooting, use four players 6-foot-8 or taller in their rotation and find ways to make opponents uncomfortable.
And the Highlanders – while more comfortable than they were last month – were uncomfortable at key moments Saturday night. UCI held them to 31.5 percent shooting, including 3 for 16 from 3-point range. Larsson returned with three points, four rebounds and four fouls. Chance Murray typified UCR’s woes; he had 11 points and six rebounds – but the 11 points came on 4-of-16 shooting. Then, there were the zero assists to six turnovers.
“We had 21 turnovers and eight assists. That was one of the big keys right there. We turned it over way too much,” UCR interim head coach Justin Bell said.
So how did UCI (13-14, 8-3) overcome 19 turnovers and its own poor marksmanship – 35.7 percent shooting, including 5 for 23 from beyond the arc?