No. 13 UC Irvine Stuns No. 4 Kansas State in Upset to Advance in NCAA Tournament

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistMarch 22, 2019

UC Irvine guard Robert Cartwright (3) and forward Jonathan Galloway (5) celebrate against Kansas State during the second half of a first round men's college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament Friday, March 22, 2019, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
Chris Carlson/Associated Press

The UC Irvine Anteaters stretched their winning streak to 17 games Friday with a 70-64 upset victory over the Kansas State Wildcats in the first round of the 2019 NCAA men's tournament at the SAP Center in San Jose, California.

UC Irvine, the No. 13 seed in the South Region, hasn't suffered a defeat since a January 16 loss at the hands of the Long Beach State 49ers. Max Hazzard and Evan Leonard led the way with 19 points apiece as the Anteaters attempt to emerge as this year's March Madness Cinderella.

Kansas State has struggled with its offensive efficiency for much of the 2018-19 season, and it once again failed to come up with enough key buckets Friday, leading to its quick exit from the Big Dance.

Kamau Stokes' team-high 18 points weren't enough to survive against one of the nation's hottest teams.

If there was any doubt the Wildcats were in for a 40-minute battle Friday afternoon, it faded quickly as UC Irvine matched them shot for shot in the first half. Hazzard nailed a three just before the halftime buzzer to level the score 30-30 at the break.

Kansas State sorely missed senior forward Dean Wade, the team's second-leading scorer who's been sidelined because of lingering foot problems.

The Wildcats have struggled with offensive consistency all year, and losing their most versatile weapon at that end of the floor was a crushing blow right before March Madness.

Wade averaged 12.9 points while shooting 49.2 percent from the floor, including 41.8 percent from three-point range. Replacing that type of production on short notice is virtually impossible, and that was apparent throughout Friday's back-and-forth contest.

When you combine K-State's scoring slumps with the Anteaters' nine threes, including five from Hazzard, on 39.1 percent shooting from long range, the recipe for an upset was in place.

KSU, which shot 37.3 percent from the field and 29.6 percent from three, received little production from its backups. The bench provided nine points on 3-of-12 shooting.

Looking ahead, UC Irvine fits the mold of a March Madness sleeper. It features plenty of senior leadership, a variety of scoring options, plays strong interior defense and it came into the Big Dance riding a hot streak.

Friday's upset proved none of those factors are flukes. The Anteaters are capable of making some serious noise in the days and possibly weeks ahead.


What's Next?

UC Irvine advances to face either the No. 5 Wisconsin Badgers or No. 12 Oregon Ducks on Sunday in the South Region's second round.