Vandals fall victim to strong second half from UC Irvine

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IRVINE, Calif. — The new-look Idaho men’s basketball team showed some fight on Tuesday night in the season opener, but eventually the veteran UC Irvine squad took over and claimed the 86-68 win before 1,058 at the Bren Events Center.

The Vandals jumped out to a 9-2 lead to start the game. The teams went back and forth for most of the first half, with Idaho closing strong to take the 34-30 lead into the break.

The Anteaters came out aggressive in the second half and took a lead of their own. Jared Rodriguez gave Idaho a 49-48 advantage early in the second half, before a long spurt from UC Irvine squandered the young Vandals’ hopes at an upset.

“Very disappointed in the result, but was really happy with our effort.,” Idaho coach Don Verlin said. “Irvine is a very good basketball team, a very big basketball team. With us being so young, I thought we had a lot of guys step up.”

Idaho shot 44.4 percent (12 of 27) from beyond the arc, but just 43.6 percent (24 of 55) from the floor. UCI finished the night 34 of 63 (54 percent) from the floor and 8 of 20 (40 percent) from distance.

Rodriguez, a freshman, led the way with 18 points, while freshman Cameron Tyson added 17. Marquell Fraser also had a strong debut, finishing with eight points, four rebounds and four assists.

“Jared worked extremely hard during his redshirt year,” Verlin said. “He played behind some really good players last year and really took advantage of that during his redshirt year. He was really active and was able to knock down his shots. He’s a multidimensional guy, he’s exactly what we thought he’d be when we recruited him.”

Tyson went off in the first half, scoring 14 points on 4-of-5 shooting from beyond the arc.

“Cameron is the most ready to play freshman I’ve ever had here at the University of Idaho,” Verlin said. “Connor Hill beware. Cameron is an unbelievable shooter, he’s a great kid who works extremely hard.”

Eyassu Worku led UC Irvine with 18 points.

The Vandals were outrebounded, 42-22.

“In terms of effort, this is the best we’ve been this year, including practice,” Verlin said. “What we need to do is play this hard and this united every night. And then we need to clean up the details. We made some very basic mistakes that we need to clean up.”

Idaho hosts Nicholls State on Tuesday, Nov. 13, at 7 p.m. in Memorial Gym.

UC IRVINE 86, IDAHO 68

IDAHO (0-1)

Blakney 2-3 0-0 4, Rodriguez 7-9 1-2 18, Tyson 6-11 0-0 17, Fraser 4-7 0-4 8, Allen 2-12 2-2 8, Smits-Francisco 0-1 0-0 0, West 1-5 0-0 3, Mitchell 0-2 3-3 3, Kamara 0-1 2-2 2, Smith 2-4 0-0 5, Garvin 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-55 8-13 68.

UC IRVINE (1-0)

Galloway 1-4 0-2 2, Rutherford 3-5 3-4 9, Edgar 6-11 0-0 14, Worku 8-12 0-0 18, Hazzard 4-9 0-0 11, Welp 3-5 0-0 6, Jones 4-4 1-1 9, Ruddell 0-1 0-0 0, Cartwright 3-4 2-2 9, Leonard 2-7 4-4 8, Traylor 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 34-63 10-13 86.

Halftime—Idaho 34-30. 3-Point Goals—Idaho 12-27 (Tyson 5-9, Rodriguez 3-5, Allen 2-4, Smith 1-1, West 1-3, Mitchell 0-1, Blakney 0-1, Kamara 0-1, Fraser 0-2), UC Irvine 8-20 (Hazzard 3-6, Worku 2-3, Edgar 2-5, Cartwright 1-2, Traylor 0-1, Leonard 0-3). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—Idaho 21 (Rodriguez 5), UC Irvine 39 (Galloway, Jones 9). Assists—Idaho 15 (Allen 5), UC Irvine 21 (Worku 6). Total Fouls—Idaho 16, UC Irvine 11. A—1,058 (4,984).

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