Ballin' in The Bren

Ladies and Gentlemen: In the right corner, weighing in as 2001-2002 BW co-champions and NIT participants, the Big West power puncher, the dagger driver, the supped up CIA, the AWESOME ANTEATERS!!! And in the left corner, weighing in as the other 2001-2002 BW co-champion and NIT participant, it's the Big West big brother, the dominating diesel, the home court heroes, please welcome the ALWAYS ABOVE AGGIES!!!

Ladies and Gentlemen:   In the right corner, weighing in as 2001-2002 BW co-champions and NIT participants, the Big West power puncher, the dagger driver, the supped up CIA, the AWESOME ANTEATERS!!!  And in the left corner, weighing in as the other 2001-2002 BW co-champion and NIT participant, it's the Big West big brother, the dominating diesel, the home court heroes, please welcome the ALWAYS ABOVE AGGIES!!! 


The "Main" Event: USU vs. UCI

The Time: Wed Jan. 15th 2003 ~ 8:05 P.M. MST

The Place: The Bren (5000)


Years ago, there was an Aggie who provided the Anteaters with "locker room" material that Pat Douglas, Irvine's head coach, would use each time Utah State came to town.  When asked about playing UCI, this certain Aggie said something to the effect that playing Irvine was like "kissing your sister, it's just something you have to do."  When the Anteater players hit the locker rooms tomorrow, will they find that quote plastered all over their lockers once again?  Pat may not need to do that anymore…


Players from both sides shouldn't have to look any farther than the last few head to head classics to find their motivation.  USU vs. UCI has become the premier match-up in the Big West since 2000.  In fact, a good, healthy rivalry is in full force!


Last year's regular season ended with the two schools as co-champions of the Big West.  UCI beat the Aggies in Logan and Utah State beat the Anteaters in Irvine.  Last year at the Bren, the Aggies hopped out to a commanding lead, only to see UCI fight back in the 2nd half to make a great game of it.  The Aggies barely held on for the win.


Coming into Wednesday's game, Utah State (12-3)(3-1) went 2-0 at home this week with an 81-67 win over Cal Poly and a 75-59 win over UCSB on ESPN2.  UC Irvine (8-4)(2-1) is coming home after a road trip that gave them a 66-65 loss at Fullerton and an 81-77 win at UC Riverside. 


I was able to spend a little time with Jkline (via email), a long time UCI fan with great knowledge of the game of basketball and this years Irvine team:


AS: How is Irvine countering the loss of Jerry Green this year?


Jkline: "UCI is trying to get the ball to Parada in the post. One would not realize the extent to which Parada has become UCI's primary option jugging by his total stats (12.9 ppg).  This is deceiving because Parada has fouled out of 4 games and been almost a non-factor in those games.  When not fouling out, Parada averages 16.9 ppg and when he's on the court, he is usually the go-to guy.  Jeff Gloger has become the primary ball-handler and leads the team in assists at 2.9 per game.  UCI is using a tandem of players at the shooting guard position and getting at least adequate production through the use of senior Mike Hood, true freshman Mike Efevberha and redshirt freshman Ross Schraeder. Altogether they have given UCI (roughly) 18 points with 40% 3-pt shooting and 3 assists per 40 minutes.  If UCI needs a clutch shot at the end of game, it could be any one of a number of candidates.  UCI would probably try to go to Parada, but it is very difficult to make that entry pass to the post when the defense buckles down with the game on the line.  Harris made a shot to send the game to overtime at Fullerton.  Mike Hood made the game-winning shot at UCR tonight."


AS: Many believe this is the most balanced team Pat Douglas has ever which team is better; an unbalanced Irvine team with Jerry Green, or a balanced team without him?


Jkline: "The "balanced team" label is a bit deceiving.  For one, Parada has
become the primary option but his numbers are low for reasons stated
above.  Secondly, Douglass's rapid line-up rotations have seldom allowed
anyone other than Parada or Harris to get into an offensive rhythm.  I
would not characterize this as a good thing. I have little doubt that last year's team, with Green, was better than this year's team.  And this is particularly apparent on the road. Having a proven "go-to" player on the road can make the difference in
several wins or losses over the season's course.  UCI misses Green's poise in critical situations and his ability to take over a ball-game, or pick up the offense if it struggles.  Fortunately, Gloger has shown himself to be a very poised ball-handler and great competitor with enormous desire to win.  But, Jeff is not a big-time scorer so he cannot carry the offense on his shoulders. And there are draw-backs to having Parada as the primary offensive threat.  Adam is vulnerable to turnovers when he is aggressively double-teamed in the post, a not uncommon scenario.  Parada is not much better than an adequate passer, as well, making him even more vulnerable
to double- or even triple-teams.  Plus, he is foul-prone and so, not a reliable source of offense from game to game.  It has been theorized, however, that UCI was more vulnerable in the BW tournament because Green would become tired having to carry the offense on back-to-back nights.  And UCI would lose if Green had a let-down
performance.  Therefore, this year's squad may be better suited to winning in the second and third rounds because there is more bench and less dependence on a single player on a given night.  I am not sure if I buy this or not, but as an argument, it does have some merit.  At any rate, UCI depends on a lot of young players to contribute, so we should expect this to be a work in progress and perhaps a more dangerous team by the end of the season."


AS: Most Irvine fans are talking about the team's depth...How deep in the Anteater rotation this year?  How many players are averaging 20+ minutes?


Jkline: "Douglass uses 10 players, but I would argue that only 8 of the 10 are any good.  The other 2, Hood and Baskauskas are one-dimensional talents (Hood = perimeter shooting, Baskauskas = point-defender) and, in my view, they are a detriment to the team's performance if used for more than 10 minutes in a game.  The other 8 are all very talented, but, with the exception of Jordan Harris, Jeff, Gloger, and Adam Parada, they are fairly inconsistent.  For Efevberha, Schraeder, and Ethington, this can be attributed to lack of experience.  Okoro and Zuzak are both juniors, but still have a lot of room to grow.  Six players average 20+ minutes: Harris, Parada, Zuzak, Gloger, Hood, and Okoro.  But, on a given night, Efevberha and/or Schraeder can see more minutes. Douglass has used the depth as a motivating tool.  If a player starts slowly in a game, Douglass hasn't hesitated to bench that player and go to the next player on the depth chart.  This tactic has been marginally successful, in my opinion.  While it may motivate players, it also means
that the best players are on the bench a lot.  Perhaps the bigger advantage of this strategy is that it has given playing time to young players like Efevberha and Schraeder, who may not have been given a chance to showcase their talents otherwise.  And it has become apparent that both of these players are quite talented.  Although UCI does have some depth, there are no comparable replacements for Parada and Gloger.  And if either player gets into foul trouble or
becomes injured, it would be a huge blow to UCI."


AS: This year's early loss to Fullerton must have been unexpected...Is Fullerton that much improved this year?  Did they expose any UCI weaknesses?


Jkline: "Fullerton is, in fact, much improved.  I predict they will win 7 or 8 conference games this year.  The main reasons are Ralphy Holmes and Zachee Smith.  Smith will make a bid for best ball-handler and passer in the conference.  Holmes is an all-around terrific shooting guard.  Beating UCI exposed a couple weaknesses. One is that UCI is not a very good road team, especially without Green.  The other is that great ball-handling guards can negate one of UCI best strengths, which is back-court defense.  Gloger is an extremely aggressive defender and gets almost more steals than any other D-1 player.  Baskauskas is pretty good at guarding the ball-handler, as well.  But, Smith, along with Holmes and (the new addition) Holm-Hadulla all showed the ability to withstand this pressure.  UCI may have a hard time winning on the road without creating a bunch of turnovers that lead to easy points."


AS: What are 3 keys to an Irvine win this Wednesday night in the Bren?


Jkline:  "How about the keys to Penigar, Nelson, and Brown's cars so that they miss the plane to Orange County?  But, seriously folks:  Key #1: UCI must be, at least, even with Utah State in both offensive and total rebounds. Key #2: UCI must force more turnovers than the typical 12 or 13 that Utah State commits. Key #3: Parada and Gloger must both stay out of foul trouble.  Note that if Parada gets into foul trouble, then #1 will likely not occur, and if Gloger gets into foul trouble, then #2 will likely not occur.  UCI's success hinges on these two guys."


AS: USU vs. UCI games in recent past have been classics...Will this years games be any different?


Jkline: "Probably not.  At least not in Logan.  UCI probably won't be as dangerous on the road this year (see above reasons) and I don't expect the game in Logan to be close.  I am not even certain that the game at Bren will be close, but it will more likely be the most competitive of the two matches."


AS: Adam Parada seems to always play "Big" games against the Aggies...any insight as to his success?


Jkline: "His success against Utah State could be a side-effect of the defense concentrating on Jerry Green.  If Utah State decides to double-team or play a collapsing zone on Parada, then he will probably not have a big scoring game.  If Utah State plays man defense with a single team, then Parada will probably score 20+."


AS: The biggest Anteater surprise for me this year has been the play of freshman guard Jeff Gloger...tell us about his play and worth to the UCI basketball team:


Jkline: "Jeff Gloger plays a highly aggressive and energetic style of basketball.  He has good tools: 6'4" 190 lbs., a quick first-step, great acceleration with the dribble (he has a "second gear" so to speak),  good hops, strong hands, and physically tough.  Offensively he has good court vision and is always looking to push the ball up-court.  He is a pretty good passer, but he doesn't have much of a repertoire or touch yet.  His passes are more of the "laser-beam" variety, and as a result he does not get many assists.  But, he does
create offensive opportunities, by either beating his man off the dribble or helping to get the offense started before the defense is entirely set.  He doesn't look for his own shot much, and almost never in the first half of the game.  But he does score off of fast breaks (rare for UCI) and steals, which sometimes lead to dunks.  He is an able jump-shooter if left wide-open, which happens quite a bit, since he is capable at driving past his man with the dribble.  His shot selection is impeccable (I have yet to see him take a bad shot) and this is evidenced by his 64 FG% and 1.96 points-per-shot ratio. 

Defensively, he is the best player on the team, hands down.  He averages 3.6 steals per game and has been between #3 and #6 in the nation for the past 3 weeks.  He had 5 against UCR tonight.  He also gets numerous deflections, which don't show up statistically but disrupt the opposing offensive flow.  However, he is vulnerable to being beaten off the dribble, by smaller quicker guards, because he plays up close to his man
when guarding the ball  (he had trouble with Zachee Smith).  And he does get caught out of position sometimes when he goes for a steal in the passing lanes and "whiffs."  But, he recovers quickly, and often in time to bat the ball from behind or the side.  And he always seems to be the player with the most hustle on either team.  He's one of those players that "always seems to be wherever the ball is."  He is also a terrific rebounder at the point guard position and is better than his 3.8 rpg average would indicate.  Gloger probably won't win Defensive Player of the Year for the conference because he is a freshman, and that award tends to go a player with big rebounding stats, but he deserves consideration for that award, and also for the Best Hustle award.

Gloger's intensity and seeming desire to win cannot be easily quantified.  But it displays itself when game is close and the team needs a play.  That is when Gloger usually comes though with a steal or a drive to the hoop.  Even though he makes his share of mistakes, he usually makes good decisions.  When Gloger is in the game, the team runs well; without him, it can get ugly.  He is the most valuable player besides Parada.  They share that distinction because they change the game, both offensively and defensively."


AS: In recent years, the Bren has been packed when the Aggies come to town…tell us about the "CIA":


Jkline:  "The most reviled student cheering section the Big West.  The CIA gets a fairly large turnout at home games, and make a surprising amount of noise that is aimed directly at the players.  The fake shot-clock countdown has been effective against most teams.  Florida Atlantic was fooled 4 times in one game!  At the conclusion of that game the UCI players came over to the CIA and gave them "high-fives" for helping to bother the opponent.  The fake-out has even worked on the road at Fullerton and Long Beach.  On the road, the CIA cheering section is about one or two dozen in number, having fewer numbers the further the road game from Irvine.  Don't expect to see the CIA show up in Logan.  There is no bus for students to road games, so it is entirely upon the students to make these trips.  You may not think that a couple dozen CIA would be heard on the road, but they do make a lot of noise.  And it never fails to raise the dander of the locals.  Many complain about how
the CIA is made up of a bunch of classless jerks, and it is not uncommon for the CIA to be threatened by fans during and after the games.  But the CIA brings a sense of competitiveness to the conference games that is good for the league.  It makes other schools start talking about "rivalries" because the CIA came into their gym and chanted "This is OUR House!"  When
Utah State comes to Bren, expect the environment to be very loud and very hostile." 


Thanks to Jkline for the great interview and analysis of this years UCI Anteater basketball team!


Go Aggies!!!  Let's go Ballin' in the Bren!

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