UC Irvine will play in a second-round game of the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament for the first time when it faces Oregon in a South Region game at San Jose Sunday.
Doors will open at 6 p.m. at UC Irvine’s Newkirk Alumni Center for the official watch party of the 6:40 p.m. TBS telecast. The party is billed as “a big basketball pizza party,” with food and drinks provided.
Parking may be impacted due to Bren Event Center activities. Carpooling is “highly recommended.”
The 13th-seeded Anteaters were the lowest-seeded team to win in the first round of the 2019 tournament, upsetting fifth-seeded Kansas State, 70-64, overcoming a 10-point first-half deficit, Friday at SAP Center in San Jose.
“We came into the game confident with belief that we could win, and I think that belief showed throughout the game, especially when we were down early,” UC Irvine coach Russell Turner said. “We made some defensive adjustments and changes and made the plays to come out on top.”
The Anteaters allowed nine consecutive points to trail 26-16, seven minutes, 12 seconds before halftime. Redshirt senior forward Elston Jones scored seven points as UC Irvine responded with a 9-0 run of its own to pull within one, 28-27, with 3:08 left in the first half.
Anteaters redshirt junior guard Max Hazzard made a 3-point basket as the first half ended, tying the score, 30-30.
There were six lead changes and two ties in the opening 7:35 of the first half before Kamau Stokes made three free throws and Makol Mawien made a jump shot to give the Wildcats a 49-44 lead with 10:35 to play.
Junior guard Evan Leonard’s back-to-back 3-point baskets started a run of 12 unanswered points that gave UC Irvine the lead for good. Leonard concluded the run by making three free throws to put the Anteaters ahead, 59-51, with 6:03 to play.
UC Irvine would lead by at least five points before Kansas State cut the lead to 63-61 with 3:15 left as Barry Brown Jr. sank a 3-point basket and Kamau Stokes made a jump shot.
The Anteaters regained a five-point lead on Hazzard’s 3-point basket with 1:26 to play. The Wildcats pulled back within two on Cartier Diarra’s 3-point basket with 1:03 remaining, but never scored again.
Kansas State missed a chance to at least tie the score when UC Irvine guard Robert Cartwright missed a layup, Brown grabbed the rebound, but threw the ball out of bounds.
Leonard made two free throws with 16 seconds remaining. Brown missed a 3-point shot with seven seconds to play. Leonard came down with the rebound, was fouled and made two free throws for the game’s final points.
Leonard and Hazzard each scored 19 points as the Anteaters extended their school-record winning streak to 17 games and improved to 31-5, increasing its school record for victories in a season.
The game came two days after the 55th anniversary of Hazzard’s late grandfather Walt Hazzard scoring 19 points in UCLA’s 90-84 victory over the Wildcats in a national semifinal game.
Stokes had 18 for Kansas State (25-9).
UC Irvine was a 4 1/2-point underdog. The ABC News-owned data prediction website FiveThirtyEight.com gave the Anteaters a 23 percent chance of winning. Among participants in ESPN’s Tournament Challenge, 21.4 percent picked UC Irvine to win.
Former President Barack Obama was the highest-profile person to predict a victory by the Anteaters.
The No. 13 seed is 29-111 in the first round since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985.
The game was UC Irvine’s second in the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament. Its other 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.
“I and the Anteater Nation could not be any prouder for the team and their well-earned victory Friday afternoon,” UCI Chancellor Howard Gillman said. “Coach Turner and his players have worked hard to achieve their goal of not only making the NCAA tournament but advancing beyond the first round.
“This team has brought so much joy and excitement to our UCI community.”
>> Want to read more stories like this? Get our Free Daily Newsletters Here!Follow us: