Tag: Will Davis II

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UC Irvine pastes Washington, but it’s the Huskies who will advance to NYC

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The semifinalists in the 2K Sports Classic have been known for months now, with UConn and Boston College meeting in one semifinal and Washington taking on Indiana in the other. But this is still a “tournament,” and on Thursday the UC Irvine Anteaters (and earlier Thursday the Toledo Rockets) displayed why that word should be used loosely when describing some events.

Will Davis II tallied 22 points and seven rebounds and 7-foot-6 center Mamadou Ndiaye added 18 points, nine blocks (a Big West single-game record) and eight rebounds as the Anteaters, the preseason favorites to win the Big West, soundly defeated Washington 86-72. But even with the Huskies’ depleted front court, UC Irvine took full control of the action in the second half. For the game Russell Turner’s team shot 59.6% from the field, winning by a comfortable margin despite shooting just 50% from the foul line (16-for-32).

C.J. Wilcox scored 22 points and freshman Nigel Williams-Goss added 13 to lead the way for Washington, but the bigger concern for the Huskies in the aftermath of Thursday’s defeat is their lack of options in the paint. Perris Blackwell made his return to the lineup after missing the opener with a concussion, scoring nine points and grabbing five rebounds, and Washington’s lack of interior depth means that more will be needed from Shawn Kemp Jr. and Gilles Dierickx. And on Thursday night they struggled mightily with the veteran Davis and his tall sidekick.

But despite those issues (and the loss) it’s Washington who is headed to New York City next week. Sure that was known well before this game was played, but is this really a “tournament” if the advancing teams are pre-determined? The reasons for such setups are well-known by now, with ticket sales and larger alumni bases being of high priority. But can anyone who watched UC Irvine take care of business say that they don’t deserve to advance?

With their fate already known, the more important thing for Irvine to do is look at the areas in which they need to improve with an eye towards earning the Big West’s automatic bid. The biggest issue: free throw shooting. In three games the Anteaters have shot 55-for-101 from the charity stripe, which works out to about 54.5%.

With their big men and guards such as Luke Nelson (11 points, six assists) and Alex Young (eight points, six assists) the Anteaters have more than enough talent to win the Big West, but the “little things” like foul shooting can prove costly especially in a one-and-done scenario. So regardless of where UC Irvine plays next week, that’s an issue that will need to be addressed.

It’s just too bad that they won’t be able to work on it at Madison Square Garden.

UC Irvine aiming for first NCAA tournament appearance as a Division I member

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source: AP
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All month long, CBT will be rolling out our 2013-2014 season preview. To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here.

In the first two seasons of Russell Turner’s tenure at UC Irvine the Anteaters took their lumps, winning a total of 25 games and finishing no better than sixth in the Big West (six league victories in each season). But things changed for the Anteaters in 2012-13, as head coach Russell Turner’s team won 21 games (11 in Big West play) and made the program’s first postseason appearance since 2002.

Two of those victories came at the expense of Big West regular season champion Long Beach State, with the Anteaters knocking off the 49ers in the semifinals of the Big West tournament. UC Irvine fell in the title game to Pacific, ending their hopes of reaching the NCAA tournament and resulting in a trip to the CollegeInsider.com tournament.

Despite the graduation of Adam Folker, Daman Starring and Michael Wilder expectations are high for UC Irvine entering the 2013-14 season, with the prevailing feeling being that the Anteaters have the combination of returnees and newcomers needed to reach the NCAA tournament for the first time as a Division I member.

“Last season we played as a team, and we had [great] chemistry on and off the court,” said junior forward Will Davis II in an interview with NBC Sports when asked what the difference was last season compared to the season prior. “We did many things together to improve our team bonding, and I feel like everyone had the same goals to be as good as possible, push each other in practice and do our best to win every game.”

One area where the improvement was evident in 2012-13 was defensively, with the Anteaters limiting opponents to a Big West-best 38.7% shooting from the field, an improvement of nearly three percentage points from the season prior (41.5%). Davis II was a big reason why UC Irvine improved in that department, with his 2.4 blocks per game leading the Big West and resulting in the 6-foot-8 forward winning Big West Defensive Player of the Year honors.

CLICK HERE to read NBCSports.com’s Big West Conference Preview

Davis II saw a decent amount of playing time at the center position, but that may change some given how much size the Anteaters have inside. UC Irvine has three 7-footers, including freshmen Mamadou Ndiaye (7-foot-5) and Giannis Dimakopoulos (7-foot-2) and sophomore Conor Clifford (7-foot-0), and two 6-foot-10 centers in John Ryan and Mike Best. That size could result in Davis II playing the majority of his minutes at the four, which will likely benefit the Anteaters.

“I can guard some,” said Davis II. “For example, if we play zone I’ll guard a wing instead of being the center in the zone. It just takes a little bit of the load off my back as I won’t be the lone big man and have to guard the five every night.”

But even with the many big men at Turner’s disposal, he’s got some solid perimeter players as well. UC Irvine adds New Mexico transfer Dominique Dunning and freshman Luke Nelson, who was named England’s Under-18 Player of the Year in 2013 and averaged 19 points per game during this summer’s Under-19 European Championships. They’ll join two returnees in senior Chris McNealy and sophomore Alex Young who should be in the running for all-conference honors this season.

The 6-foot-4 McNealy is the lone senior on the roster, and the most experienced player in the Big West this season (2,243 minutes) was a productive sixth man (9.2 ppg, 4.2 rpg) for the Anteaters last season. As for Young, the 6-foot-1 guard is both the present and the future of the UC Irvine program. As a freshman Young started 29 games and posted averages of 9.2 points, 3.9 assists and 3.3 rebounds per game, sharing Big West Freshman of the Year honors with Hawaii forward Isaac Fotu.

With a year of experience under his belt, Young has the skill needed to cement his standing as one of the conference’s best players.

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“He’s progressed a lot. He’s taken on a leadership role since he’s our returning point guard, so he’s been very vocal,” said Davis II of Young. “He’s been putting in a lot of work outside of practice as well.”

Leaders stepping up is something to keep an eye on as the season wears on, with the Anteaters losing three in the form of Starring, Folker and Wilder. Starring was the team’s leading scorer last season, averaging 12.9 ppg on a balanced squad that had just one player averaging double figures. The 6-foot-9 Folker averaged 9.3 points and 6.3 rebounds per game playing alongside Davis II inside and Wilder, the man who was known by the casual observer for his hairstyle, was also one of the Big West’s most versatile players (8.6 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 3.0 apg).

Players such as McNealy, Davis II and Young will need to grab the reins and be the leaders the Anteaters need if they’re to be the Big West contender many expect them to be.

Given the amount of success that Long Beach State has enjoyed of late, winning at least a share of the last three Big West titles, dethroning the 49ers won’t be an easy task despite their having to account for the graduation of Big West Player of the Year James Ennis. But even with that being the case the rest of the Big West will concede nothing, with UC Irvine being among the teams taking a run at the throne.