13th-seed UC Irvine extended the longest winning streak in the nation by defeating number four-seed Kansas State Wildcats 70-64 in San Jose in the first round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.
The Anteaters came to life in the second half—turning a tied halftime score at 30 into a six-point victory. The team was led by the dual guard scoring threat of Max Hazzard and Evan Leonard, both with 19 points. Starting guard Robert Cartwright contributed with 10 points and forward Elston Jones scored 11 points off the bench to contribute to the victory.
Max Hazzard ties it up before the half! UC Irvine is trying to bust some brackets. pic.twitter.com/hvqesfFpn0
— Basketball Society (@BBallSociety_) March 22, 2019
‘Power 6’ Team Powers Through
Even though Irvine was a popular upset pick, fans and alumni alike are excited about the victory of a ‘Power 6’ conference school on a national stage.
Meanwhile on campus…
‘Eaters WIN IT!! #StillHungry pic.twitter.com/QAp3k4EmEi
— UC Irvine Athletics (@UCIAthletics) March 22, 2019
“The team has worked so hard and the fans and alumni are so loyal standing behind the team since the start of the season, now to see them win in front of the entire country is amazing,” says Karla Vandenberg, Orange County event planner. “The energy I feel at the games definitely translates to a national television audience, this is such an exciting time.”
UC Irvine is receiving even extra attention for the upset, as they are the only southern California team in the tournament, and now all eyes are on the Anteaters’ next opponent, the winner of the tight Wisconsin versus Oregon game. Although Oregon is a traditionally strong program, experts say the Ducks are in a ‘down’ year, making Sunday’s game potentially easier than what many college basketball insiders expected.
Round 2 Will Be Close
The Anteaters are set to face a fast-paced Oregon team that matches the style of UC Irvine. Experts, fans and alumni alike are expecting a close game, as the Ducks are also riding a win streak.
“Today feels like December 23 and Christmas is on Sunday,” says Vandenberg. “The Anteaters have a real shot at the Sweet 16 and everybody in southern California needs to be watching.”
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