The UC Irvine men's basketball team used a pair of perfect post men to take care of Morgan State, 75-63, in a nonconference home game on Thursday.
Mamadou Ndiaye, a 7-foot-6 freshman starter, and 6-10 junior reserve John Ryan were both six for six from the field to help the hosts shoot 55.8% as a team (29 for 52).
The 14 points tied a career high for Ryan, who added five rebounds and three assists in 16 minutes.
Ndiaye added four blocked shots and three rebounds, posting 10 points by halftime and playing 23 minutes. He is now 24 of 28 from the field in his last five games (85.7%).
Sophomore guard Alex Young was three for five from three-point range and six for 12 from the field to tally a game-high 18 points for the winners. He also had six assists and six rebounds and did not commit a turnover.
Will Davis, a 6-8 junior forward, added to the frontline mastery with 14 points, 10 rebounds, two assists and two steals.
The inside game, which helped UCI produce a 38-30 advantage with points in the paint, was complimented by Young, freshman Luke Nelson (nine points and four assists), and senior Chris McNealy (eight points, six rebounds and three assists), as UCI (8-7) methodically outlasted the Bears (3-10) to collect the squad's first home win since Nov. 24.
UCI, now 4-3 at the Bren Events Center, will have one final home tuneup — against San Diego Christian on Saturday at 7 p.m. — before opening Big West Conference play Thursday at Long Beach State at 8 p.m.
"It's nice to have played the difficult schedule we have played [just coming off a stretch with six road games in seven contests] and learned the lessons we've been forced to learn," UCI Coach Russell Turner said. "We're in a new year with a good home win. It's important for us to re-establish our home identity. We didn't do that with our start [against the Bears]."
Morgan State, scored the first eight points of the contest, but UCI countered with runs of 9-0 and 10-0 at various points during the first half to claim a 32-26 halftime lead.
UCI opened the second half on a 13-6 run and kept attacking the lengthy, athletic visitors, who blocked five shots, two fewer than the Anteaters.
Ndiaye scored most of his buckets by catching a high entry pass, pivoting around a defender and either slamming the ball home or banking it off the glass for a layin.
But Ryan and Davis scored most of their field goals on deft assists, sometimes from one another.
"It's hard to score in the post at all levels of basketball, unless you are in the right spot and guys are good at giving it to you at the right time," Turner said. "Everyone says 'Give it to the big guy.' It can look easy, but it's not easy."
Morgan State, which had just six turnovers, had 18 second-chance points on 11 offensive rebounds, while UCI converted its 13 offensive boards into 10 points.
UCI increased its lead to 19 with 2:31 left in the contest, before Morgan State, coached by former Cal head man Todd Bozeman and including 7-2 senior Ian Chiles (16 points on eigth-of-13 shooting, three rebounds and two blocks), pared the deficit.
UC Irvine 75, Morgan State 63
MSU – Blossom 4, Chiles 16, Black 17, Hubbard 14, Bozeman 7, Pretlow 3, Duncan 2.
3-pt. goals – Black 1, Hubbard 1, Pretlow 1, Bozeman 1.
Fouled out – None.
Technicals – Heath 1, Coach Bozeman 1.
UCI – Davis 14, Ndiaye 12, Young 18, Nelson 9, McNealy 8, Ryan 14.
3-pt. goals – Young 3, Nelson 1.
Fouled out – None.
Technicals – Wright 1.
Halftime – UCI, 32-26.