Eastern falls again to UC Irvine, Ndiaye's presence
His stat line isn’t overwhelming, but the imposing presence of 7-foot-6 Mamadou Ndiaye and his team’s defense certainly is.
For the second time this season, UC Irvine held Eastern Washington University to 33 percent shooting or less and went on to hand EWU its first home loss in four tries this season by a 70-61 score last Sunday, Dec. 15 in a non-conference men’s basketball game at Reese Court.
Ndiaye made all five of his shots and finished with 10 points, eight rebounds and blocked four shots, but also altered several others and was a force in the paint. He entered the game ranked 10th in NCAA Division I with 32 total blocks for the season and 22nd with an average of 3.2 swats per game. He had 10 of the blocks in the first meeting against Eastern.
The result was a 33-percent shooting night for the Eagles, who stayed in the game thanks to nine 3-pointers made and the contributions of four Eagles in double figures. UC Irvine also out-rebounded EWU 45-34 and out-scored EWU inside the paint 40-24.
Eastern had entered the game having made 48.5 percent of their shots for the season. In fact, Eastern has made 51 percent from the field in its six non-UCI games this season.
“We have been shooting really well, but you look at the two games we have played against these guys, they make it hard to put the ball in the basket,” Eastern head coach Jim Hayford said. “It is not just one guy. They play good team defense, and they have a lot of size.”
Sophomore guard Tyler Harvey led the Eagles with 15 points, and junior Parker Kelly had 13. Junior point guard Drew Brandon had 12 points, eight rebounds and six assists, and true freshman Ognjen Miljkovic came off the bench to finish with 12 points, five rebounds and three steals.
The loss dropped Eastern to 5-4 on the season while UC Irvine improved to 6-5. Eastern fell to UC Irvine 81-58 in the previous meeting at the 2K Sports Classic in Irvine, Nov. 24.
The Eagles fell behind in the first half by as many as nine points at the 5:57 mark. But Eastern used an alley-oop dunk from Brandon to Martin Seiferth to ignite a late scoring surge.
Eastern closed the half with a 9-2 run, with UC Irvine going the last 3:21 without a field goal. A driving layin by Brandon cut the score to two, and a layup by Kelly knotted the score at 29. Yet another layup by Miljkovic gave EWU a two-point lead at intermission.
UC Irvine scored 14 of the first 17 points in the second half and regained an 11-point lead. Eastern used a 13-4 run to pull within two at the 7:50 mark, with Kelly scoring six points in the run and Harvey contributing five. But EWU couldn’t get any closer, and a late 10-0 run clinched the win for the Anteaters.
Four UCI players scored in double figures, with Luke Nelson coming off the bench to finish with 13.
Eastern hits the road to the East Coast for games at Seton Hall, Dec. 22 and Connecticut Dec. 28 before opening Big Sky Conference play Jan. 2 at Weber State and Idaho State Jan. 4 before hosting Montana (Jan. 9) and Montana State (Jan. 11).