NCAA basketball: Irvine teammates with Bay Area roots eager to face Oregon – The Mercury News

NCAA basketball: Irvine teammates with Bay Area roots eager to face Oregon - The Mercury News
How a misguided decision by its coach contributed to Kansas States early exit
SAN JOSE — There was no promise that the college basketball careers of Jonathan Galloway and Robert Cartwright would lead to this happy ending.

Galloway grew up in the Bay Area and Cartwright passed through here during three seasons at Stanford. Neither was always coveted.

Yet here they are, senior teammates at UC Irvine, coming off the Anteaters first-ever NCAA Tournament victory and one step away from advancing to the Sweet 16.

To get there, 13th-seeded Irvine (31-5) will put its 17-game win streak on the line Sunday against No. 12 Oregon (24-12), winner of nine in a row, in a 6:40 p.m. tipoff at SAP Center.

“Weve watched them. We watched some film on them. We watched them play some yesterday, and you know, theyre a very smart but fast team. And thats one of the things that we have to take into account. So theyve gotten to this point for a reason. And for that we for sure have to respect them. Definitely not a Cinderella, though.”

Asked after Fridays 70-64 upset of Kansas State what its like to play in front of friends and family, Galloway smiled broadly. A lot of love, he said.

Coach Russell Turners roster is dotted with players for whom the underdog mentality is a powerful force. Some of the best players Ive been around use as fuel the times theyve been overlooked, he said.

G – Payton Pritchard 6-foot-2 JR 12.9 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 4.6 apgG – Louis King 6-foot-9 FR 13.3 ppg, 5.6 rpgF – Paul White 6-foot-9 SR 10.7 ppg, 3.9 rpgF – Kenny Wooten 6-foot-9 SO 6.3 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 2.1 bpgC – Francis Okoro 6-foot-9 FR 3.1 ppg, 3.3 rpg

Galloway, a 6-foot-10 forward, played at Richmonds Salesian High. A handful of midsize schools made scholarship offers his senior season. The big schools: Not a sniff.

F – Jonathan Galloway 6-foot-10 SR 7.0 ppg, 8.0 rpgF – Tommy Rutherford 6-foot-8 JR 6.8 ppg, 4.4 rpgG – Max Hazzard 5-foot-10 JR 12.5 ppg, 1.9 rpgG – Robert Cartwright 6-foot-2 SR 6.8 ppg, 2.3 apgG – Evan Leonard 6-foot-1 JR 11.1 ppg, 2.5 rpg

But Galloway has no complaints with his career arc. While his numbers are modest — 6.9 points and 7.8 rebounds per game this year — his efforts have not gone unappreciated. He is the three-time Defensive Player of the Year in the Big West Conference and this season earned first-team all-conference honors.

Follow for pregame, in-game, and postgame coverage, analysis, video, photos, and more as the Ducks try and get to their fourth Sweet 16 in the last seven seasons.

I developed the way I wanted to here. My senior year couldnt have gone better, Galloway said. I made the perfect decision coming to Irvine.

Share Share Mallard Madness: Do the Anteaters have another upset in them? tweet share Reddit Pocket Flipboard Email Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports This Sunday at 6:40 PM PT on TBS, the 13-seed UC Irvine Anteaters will play against the Mighty Ducks of Oregon! Will the Anteaters improve upon their school-record winning streak of 17 games? Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports SEASON THUS FAR RECORD: 31-5, 15-1

Cartwright feels the same way. He fell out of favor with new Stanford coach Jerod Haase last year but found Irvine, where Turner outlined exactly the scenario he wanted.

After four straight wins, UC Irvine suffered back-to-back losses against two low-tier teams, Butler (16-17) and Pacific (14-18). The Anteaters won 16 of their final 17 regular season conference games, their lone loss coming against Long Beach State (who they would later defeat in the Big West Tournament.) They clinched their conference regular season championship against UC Riverside on March 2nd.

It was my dream to play in the NCAA Tournament my whole life. Thats what coach Turner and I talked about when I came here, Cartwright said. He had expectations of things the team could do and he believed I could be an integral part.

SEASON SUMMARY: The UC Irvine Anteaters started the season as UC Irvine Globetrotters, traveling to Seoul, Korea to take part in the Asia Pacific University Basketball Challenge. The Anteaters won their first four games against South Korea, Japan, Philippines and Chinese Taipei, but fell to Russia in a 92-91 finale that took place at 1:30 AM Pacific Time.

From separate starting points, Galloway and Cartwright have become unlikely allies. It was that way from the moment Galloway served as player host on Cartwrights campus visit last spring.

UC Irvine has already proven to be an impressive tournament team by winning the Big West Tourney and upsetting the 4-seeded Kansas State Wildcats in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament. The Anteaters took down #8 seed UC Riverside, #5 seed Long Beach State and then #3 seed Cal State Fullerton to claim the Big West Tournament Championship.

Once I was able to meet him, I really wanted to come because of him, Cartwright said. Hes an unbelievable guy, been a great friend to me.

Cartwright has kept contact with his former Stanford teammates, especially Reid Travis, who made a grad transfer move this season to Kentucky. Travis averaged 16 points and 10 rebounds though two NCAA games as the Wildcats advanced to next weekend.

Hes with a great team, and hes a huge part of that team, Cartwright said. Were definitely very happy for each other.

Cartwrights role with the Anteaters has increased as the season unfolded. He started the past six games and scored double figures in four of them, including 10 points vs. K-State.

Hes our floor general, great passer, and bring great energy on offense and defense, Galloway said. Hes been that spark, especially toward the end of the season, that we needed.

Payton Pritchard, Oregons star point guard, competed two seasons against Cartwright and sees a different player.

Hes obviously the same dude, but he looks more confident driving and shooting the ball, Pritchard said. Im happy to see that. Im looking forward to the matchup.

Galloways contributions often are less obvious, but one statistic demonstrates his value: His 95 career victories are the most in program history.

We cant function without him, Cartwright said. Everything we do defensively is because of him.

The Ducks will be a difficult matchup, but both players are determined to keep this season going as long as possible.

We believe in ourselves and we know we can compete with any team, Cartwright said. We fully expect to be in the game at the end and have a chance to win.

The teams have played as recently as three seasons ago, and Oregon coach Dana Altman is 5-0 against UCI.

Weber needlessly sat first-team all-Big 12 guard Barry Brown for the rest of the first half after he picked up his second foul less than six minutes into the game.

Thirteenth-seeded UC Irvine took advantage of Browns absence, erasing a 10-point deficit by holding Kansas States anemic offense without a field goal for the final six minutes before halftime. Brown then struggled to generate any second-half rhythm after sitting so long, finishing a 70-64 loss with just five points and still only two fouls.

Asked at halftime about benching Brown for so long by Turner Sports sideline reporter Rosalyn Gold-Onwude, Weber told her, As long as we were ahead, we were going to keep him on the bench. The Kansas State coach reiterated that stance during his postgame news conference as well.

Weber deserves ample praise for overcoming injuries to guide Kansas State to a share of a Big 12 title this season, but his inflexibility handling Browns foul trouble Friday afternoon was a costly mistake. Fear of Brown picking up a third first-half foul isnt sufficient reason to bench him for that long given the seniors foul history, Kansas States reliance on him and the quality of the Wildcats opponent.

Kansas State head coach Bruce Weber gestures during the first half of a first round mens college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament against UC Irvine Friday, March 22, 2019, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)MoreBrown is an experienced veteran who averaged 2.4 fouls per 40 minutes this season and has fouled out of just three times in the past four years. He had given his head coach no reason not to trust him to play through foul trouble on a day when Kansas State badly needed him.

A big, experienced team that leads the nation in two-point field-goal percentage defense and excels at altering shots around the rim, UC Irvine in many ways is built to give Kansas State fits. The Wildcats are a poor perimeter shooting team, a flaw further exacerbated by the absence of standout forward and pick-and-pop specialist Dean Wade due to injury.

While driving lanes for Kansas State were scarce against UC Irvines tightly packed zone defense, Brown might have been able to slither through them often enough to help the Wildcats maintain a slight halftime lead. The Big 12s defensive player of the year also undoubtedly would have made some difference guarding UC Irvine perimeter standouts Max Hazzard and Evan Leonard were he on the floor.

Instead Brown sat while UC Irvine gained confidence. Then he couldnt seem to get anything going during a cold-shooting second half.

The defining play of the game for Brown arrived in the final minute with Kansas State still within two. Brown tried to kick to teammate Cartier Diarra spotted up behind the arc, but a miscommunication led to the pass sailing into the Kansas State bench for an ill-timed turnover.

I kind of made the wrong pass, Brown told reporters after the game. I didnt read it right. I should have just dribbled it out. Just made the wrong read in a crucial part of the game. Definitely on me. Should have been better.

Theres no denying Kansas State lost against UC Irvine for a myriad of reasons, not just Weber mishandling Browns foul trouble.

The Wildcats shot poorly from the perimeter, turned the ball over too often and missed Wades ability to draw opposing big men out of the paint. Meanwhile, the Anteaters played with poise, defended relentlessly and hit some big threes down the stretch.

Theres also no denying that figuring out when to sit foul-plagued players isnt easy. Heck, UC Irvine coach Russell Turner benched guard Robert Cartwright for much of the first half with two fouls, and nobody will criticize him for it.

But with all the data available these days, it seems fair to expect coaches to avoid automatically removing a star with two early fouls without considering the context of the situation.

Webers mishandling of Browns foul trouble during Kansas States surprising first-round exit is further proof of that.

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