Russell Turner

VIDEO: UC Irvine forces overtime with their version of ‘Pacer’

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In the 1998 NCAA tournament Valparaiso used a play named “Pacer” by then-head coach Homer Drew to get the team’s star guard, Bryce Drew, a look at a game-winning three pointer against Ole Miss. Of course the play worked, etching the Drew family into NCAA tournament lore and starting the Crusaders’ run to the Sweet 16.

In running a play similar to “Pacer” it certainly helps to have a player with height capable of not only catching the first pass but advancing the ball after doing so. In the case of UC Irvine Wednesday night, they were able to call upon 7-foot-6 center Mamadou Ndiaye in the final seconds of regulation against Cal Poly.

Dominique Dunning threw the pass to Ndiaye, who was surrounded by two Cal Poly defenders. Ndiaye didn’t panic after making the catch, calmly finding an open Jaron Martin on the opposite wing. Martin hit the three-pointer, forcing overtime in a game the Anteaters would go on to win 78-72. Ndiaye finished the game with 21 points, eight blocks and four rebounds, with guard Luke Nelson also scoring 21 for Russell Turner’s team.

Ndiaye also had one assist, and it was the play that ensured that UC Irvine would have a chance to remain atop the Big West standings.

Video credit: Big West Conference

Report: Russell Turner turns down George Mason job, remains UC Irvine coach

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Russell Turner has reportedly turned down a job offer and will remain the head coach at UC Irvine.

Janis Carr of the Orange County Register reported on Sunday night that Turner had turned down the George Mason vacancy. George Mason relieved Paul Hewitt of his duties after four seasons, compiling a 20-42 record in the last two years as the program has shifted to the Atlantic 10 Conference.

Turner, in his fifth season at UC Irvine, led the Anteaters to the NCAA tournament, nearly upsetting No. 4 Louisville in the Round of 64.

UC Irvine has won 20 or more games in each of the last three seasons under Turner. While they graduate two starters, the Anteaters return 7-foot-6 center Mamadou Ndiaye along with second-leading scorer Luke Nelson and Alex Young.

UC Irvine, head coach Russell Turner agree to five-year extension

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After making their first Big West tournament final appearance since 2008 this past spring, the UC Irvine Anteaters enter the 2013-14 season as the preseason favorite to win the conference and make their first NCAA tournament appearance as a Division I member. Armed with key returnees such as forward Will Davis II and guard Alex Young and a talented crop of newcomers, head coach Russell Turner has the pieces needed to make good on the preseason attention.

On Thursday the school signed Turner to a five-year contract extension through the 2017-18 season.

“I am pleased with the direction of our men’s basketball program under the leadership of Coach Turner,” Athletic Director Michael Izzi said in the relase. “Russell and his staff have recruited quality student-athletes who are outstanding representatives of the university.

“They have generated a great deal of interest and excitement for our program on campus and in the community.”

In addition to that title game appearance the Anteaters picked up the program’s first postseason tournament victory in nearly three decades, as they beat High Point in the first round of the CollegeInsider.com Tournament. UC Irvine enters the 2013-14 season as arguably the nation’s biggest team, with three players being at least seven feet tall and freshman Mamadou Ndiaye being 7-foot-6.

And in freshman guard Luke Nelson the Anteaters add an experienced guard with international experience, as he averaged 19 points per game for England’s Under-18 team at this summer’s U-18 European Championships. With the amount of talent on campus fans are hopeful that Turner and company can reach the Big Dance.

“I’m incredibly appreciative, along with my family, for the commitment that Mike Izzi, Chancellor Drake and many others have made to our program, staff and team. We’re excited for the start of the season, the program’s future and the possibilities that we can have together.”

UC Irvine opens the regular season at home on Friday night against Fresno State, and with games against Washington, California, Oregon and Arizona State they’ll have some opportunities to boost their regional/national profile before starting Big West play in January.