Road games against Wyoming, LSU and UCLA are among the highlights in the 2011-12 UC Irvine men's basketball schedule, which was announced Monday.
The team is under the direction of coach Russell Turner, entering his second year.
The Anteaters' schedule features 16 home dates and a battery of road tests.
UCI's home schedule begins with exhibition games against Cal Baptist Nov. 2 and San Diego Christian Nov. 5.
Weber State visits the Bren Events Center Nov. 19. The Wildcats were 18-14 overall last season and advanced to a postseason tournament for the third consecutive year as Weber State competed in the College Basketball Invitational.
The 'Eaters also face San Diego Dec. 3, Vanguard Dec. 10, Hope International Dec. 22 and Seattle University Jan. 24 in other non-conference home games. UCI is a host team for the BracketBusters series Feb. 18 against an opponent to be named in late January.
UCI is taking on a tough road schedule, traveling to UC Berkeley Nov. 11 and San Jose State Nov. 14. The Anteaters are competing in the Carr's/Safeway Great Alaska Shootout at Anchorage, Ala., opening against Southern Miss on Thanksgiving Day. Other teams in the tournament are Alaska-Anchorage, Central Michigan, Dartmouth, Murray State, New Mexico State and University of San Francisco.
A mid-December stretch of challenging road contests features games at Wyoming (Dec. 13), LSU (Dec. 15) and UCLA (Dec. 20 at L.A. Sports Arena).
UCI opens Big West Conference play Dec. 29 at Cal State Northridge before hosting 2011 regular-season league champion and "Black & Blue" rival Long Beach State Jan. 2.
The Homecoming game is scheduled for Jan. 28 against UC Riverside in a Big West contest at the Bren Center in the midst of a five-game homestand.
The Big West Conference Tournament returns to the Honda Center in Anaheim for the second straight year March 8-10.
A young Anteater roster that has no seniors is led by juniors Mike Wilder and Daman Starring.
The 6-2 Wilder averaged 9.5 points and 5.7 rebounds last season when he had to play power forward for much of the season due to UCI's front-line injuries. He recorded career highs of 24 points and 13 rebounds in a win over Long Beach State at the Bren Center last January. Wilder led UCI with 53 three-point field goals last season and ranked 10th in the Big West in three-point shooting.
The 6-3 Starring averaged 7.4 points and 3.2 rebounds in his first season at UCI.
Sophomore guard Chris McNealy played in 31 games as a true freshman, averaging five points per game. Redshirt junior post player Adam Folker missed the entire regular season due to injuries after averaging over 4 rebounds per game as a sophomore. Junior point guard Derick Flowers played in all 32 games last season.
Sophomore guard Brandon Scott was a redshirt last season as was freshman forward Kevin Mulloy. UCI has seven incoming freshmen on its roster for the 2011-12 season.
"A vocal home-court environment is a key to our success," Turner said in a press release. "Our best performances last season were in front of our best crowds. Interaction with the players and fans is a big part of college basketball.
"We appreciate the support of our students, along with other members of the campus and the community that turn out for our games," Turner added. "Our guys play hard and respond well to a large crowd. We play an exciting style of basketball that fans can enjoy."
Turner brought an up-tempo game to UCI in his first season as the 'Eaters led the Big West Conference and ranked 33rd (of 336 teams) in the nation in scoring offense at 75.3 points per game, the program's highest in 16 seasons. UCI was 50th in the nation in free-throw percentage at .735 and 67th in three-point field goals per game at 7.5.
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