SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- UC Irvine outscored the Hornets, 48-21, in the second half on the way to a 79-53 victory over Sacramento State in a non-conference men's basketball game Saturday evening at The Nest.
The Anteaters, who were selected to finish first in the Big West Conference preseason poll as well as numerous preseason publications, improved to 5-3 on the young season. Among the team's wins include a double digit victory on the road at Washington two weeks ago.
The 26-point margin of defeat for the Hornets was the worst loss at home since falling to Cal State Northridge, 99-65, on Feb. 27, 1999.
Sacramento State (2-3) took its largest lead of the game at 32-22 after a jumper from Mikh McKinney at the 3:52 mark of the first half. However, from that point on, it was all UC Irvine. The Anteaters closed the half on a 9-0 run, and kept the momentum after the break, scoring 17 of the first 21 points of the second half.
That amounted to a 26-4 run spanning 7:37 of both the first and second halves after a pair of Will Davis II free throws gave UCI a 48-36 lead with 15:47 left in the game. Sacramento State got no closer than within nine points of that lead the rest of the evening. UC Irvine, which led by as many as 28 points, outscored the Hornets in the second half by a 48-21 margin after the Hornets entered halftime with a 32-31 lead.
UCI had big advantages over Sacramento State in points in the paint (38-8), points off turnovers (19-12), second chance points (13-6) and fast break points (16-2). The Anteaters shot nearly 68 percent from the field in the second half, and finished the game shooting .538 (28-52) from the floor while connecting on 19 free throws.
Conversely, the Hornets shot just .339 (19-56) from the field, .333 (5-15) from the 3-point line and .526 (10-19) from the free throw line. UC Irvine outrebounded the Hornets by a 44-29 margin while also tallying seven blocked shots and 10 steals. The field goals made and field goal percentage were both season lows for Sacramento State.
"UC Irvine is an excellent team, they have Pac 12 (Conference) level talent and I fully expect them to play in the NCAA Tournament this year," Sacramento State head coach Brian Katz said. "I was pleased with our effort in the first half, and obviously not happy about our performance in the second half but that had a lot to do with their high level of play."
Among UC Irvine's 19 made buckets in the second half, six came on dunks. UC Irvine features a massive front court that includes 7-foot-6, 290-pound Mamadou Ndiaye who finished with eight points (all dunks), five rebounds, three blocked shots and two steals. Three Anteaters finished in double figures, comprised of Chris McNealy (15 points), Luke Nelson (14 points, two steals) and Alex Young (12 points, six assists). Davis added seven points and a game-high nine rebounds.
For Sacramento State, sophomore Cody Demps finished with a career and game-high 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting to go with six rebounds in 34 minutes of play. He was joined in double figures by McKinney, who had 10 points, three assists and a game-high three steals in 36 minutes. Point guard Dylan Garrity finished with nine points, and failed to score in double figures for the first time this season. Senior Jordan Salley added seven points, two steals and a team-best seven rebounds.
Thirteen of the Hornets' 14 players on the roster made an appearance in tonight's game as sophomore Case Rada did not play because of illness.
The Hornets play again a week from today when the team travels to Texas to take on UTEP on Saturday, Dec. 7.