IRVINE — For the second time in two meetings, UC Davis and UC Irvine played a men’s basketball game that needed two extra periods to be decided.
On Thursday, there was a lot on the line as the two squads hope to avoid being the last-place team in the Big West and missing the tournament. Both teams played their hearts out, but it was the Aggies that took one step closer to that dubious distinction, as the Anteaters won, 96-87, at the Bren Events Center.
UCD (9-18, 3-10) trailed late in the first overtime but sent the game into the second extra period with an Eddie Miller three at the buzzer. UC Irvine (12-17, 5-9) controlled the action in the second overtime however, jumping out to a six-point lead and outscoring the Aggies, 16-7, to finish the victory.
The Anteaters avenged a 108-107 double overtime loss to UCD in the first meeting of the season.
Miller scored a career high 26 points on 11 of 21 shooting to lead the way for the Aggies, Joe Harden battled through foul trouble to post 22 point on 10-of-19 shooting, and Mark Payne added 20 points, eight rebounds and six assists.
Eric Wise made his return from injury for UC Irvine after missing the last six games, recording a double-double with a team high 23 points and 15 rebounds. Wise also had 12 points in the two extra periods.
“We suffered from a poor start in the first half, a poor start in the second half and a poor start in the second overtime and that was the difference in the game,” said UCD head coach Gary Stewart. “We had opportunities. We had a lead in overtime but we struggled to get defensive stops.”
After the Anteaters had a 31-30 lead at the break, UC Irvine to build its lead to a 46-37 advantage at the 16:06 mark.
The Aggies bounced back with a 9-3 run, capped off by five Ryan Sypkens points that made the score 52-50 with 10:52 to go. The Anteaters took their turn for a run to go up eight again, before UCD rattled off an 8-0 spurt to tie the score at 60 with 4:05 left.
UCD did not lead in the second half until the 2:11 mark, when Miller put the Aggies up 64-63 with a double-clutch jumper. But UC Irvine took back the advantage in the final minute on a Darren Moore breakaway layup, giving the Anteaters a 67-66 advantage with just 35 seconds left. Payne finished regulation by hitting one of two free throws to send the game into OT.
Late in the first extra period, it was UCI that managed just one of two free throws to set up Miller’s clutch game-tying trey at the buzzer.
The second overtime was all Anteaters however, as Irvine used a 6-0 run to go on top 86-80 with 2:25 on the clock. UCD had the lead down to four before a three from Pavel Losonsky with under a minute to play put the game out of reach. The Anteaters made 7-of-8 free throws down the stretch to hold on for the victory.
“We turned the ball over too many times in the second overtime,” said Stewart. “I thought we had opportunities to win but you can’t get down on the road every half and expect to get back in it. This isn’t about moral victories. We need to a better job at closing out games on the road.”
UCD will play their final road game of the regular season on Saturday, a 5 p.m. contest at UC Riverside.