UC Irvine defeated Kansas State 70-64 Friday — the Anteaters’ first-ever victory in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
The 13th-seed Anteaters will play again Sunday against the winner of Friday afternoon’s game between Wisconsin and Oregon, with a spot in the tournament’s Sweet Sixteen on the line.
The Anteaters qualified for the tournament for the second time with a 92-64 victory over Cal State Fullerton in the Big West Conference Tournament final Saturday night, extending their school-record winning streak to 16 games and improving to 30-5, increasing its school record for victories in a season.
“We’ve been close to making it this far a few times, but we accept that it’s hard to get here and that’s one of the things that makes it so satisfying, not just for our players but for our fans and our community,” UC Irvine coach Russell Turner said prior to Friday’s game.
In a conference that has only been represented in the NCAA tournament by the conference tournament champion each year since 2006, the Anteaters have been one victory away from advancing to the tournament six times, including in 2017 and 2018.
UC Irvine’s other NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament appearance was in 2015 when it was the 13th seed in the East Regional and lost to fourth-seeded Louisville, 57-55, in a game the Anteaters led in the final minute.
UC Irvine opened in 1965 and began competing on the Division I level in 1977. It twice qualified for the Division II tournament.
The Anteaters went into Friday’s game as 4 1/2-point underdogs to the Kansas State Wildcats (25-8). The ABC News-owned data prediction website FiveThirtyEight.com gave UC Irvine just a 23 percent chance of winning. Among participants in ESPN’s Tournament Challenge, 21.4 percent picked the Anteaters to win.
Former President Barack Obama was the highest-profile person to predict a UC Irvine victory.
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