IRVINE — It doesn’t take a mathematician to figure out that 3-pointers count more than 2-point baskets.
UC Irvine came into its Big West Conference matchup against Long Beach State on Saturday night as one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the nation.
LBSU, meanwhile, relies on its inside game more than most teams.
Both rivals played to their advantages in their first meeting of the season, but the Anteaters’ speciality made a bigger difference, allowing them to ride away for an 87-70 victory at the Bren Events Center.
UCI came into the game fifth in the nation in 3-point field-goal percentage (40.9) and then shot 13 for 28 from behind the arc (46.4) against LBSU.
“It did feel like we controlled the game,” UCI coach Russell Turner said. “When shots go in for us like they did tonight, it’s a lot different.”
DJ Davis shot 5 for 10 from 3-point range and scored 20 points to pace UCI (10-5 overall, 3-0 Big West Conference).
Dawson Baker scored 16 points to reach double figures for the 10th consecutive game, and Bent Leuchten added 15 points for the Anteaters, who had lost their previous two home games. Pierre Crockrell II added 10 assists.
Long Beach had scored 64.4% of its points this season on 2-point field goals coming into the game, which was the second-most in the nation.
Lassina Traore, a 6-foot-10 sophomore forward, scored a career-high 22 points and grabbed 13 rebounds for Long Beach (7-9, 1-3), but didn’t receive much help on the inside or outside. Starting guards Joel Murray and Jadon Jones were a combined 4 for 24 from the field on a night when Long Beach shot 39.7% from the field.
LBSU tried to match UCI from long distance but shot just 2 for 16 from behind the 3-point line.
LBSU also played without junior guard Marcus Tsohonis, the team’s third-leading scorer (12.1) who injured his ankle in the opening minute against UC Riverside last Saturday and missed his second straight game.
The Anteaters shot 57.1% from the floor in the first half, including 8 for 13 from 3-point range, to build a 51-34 lead.
Davis helped the Anteaters get off to a hot start by scoring 12 points in the first 6: 04.
His three-point play sparked a 16-4 run that put UCI ahead 29-17 with 10: 48 left in the opening half.
The Anteaters missed just two of their first nine 3-point attempts.
Traore helped Long Beach stay close early in the opening half, scoring 11 points in the first 11 minutes, all in the paint, but UCI limited him to two shots and no points the rest of the half.
Leuchten, a 7-footer from Bavaria, Germany who averaged 20.7 points in the previous three games, hit a 3-pointer off an inbounds pass to beat the halftime buzzer and give UCI its biggest lead.
The second half started much like the first.
Traore made an inside basket on the first possession, but Davis answered with a 3-pointer from the baseline to extend the lead to 54-36.
Aboubacar Traore (10 points, seven rebounds, five assists) then made a short jumper for LBSU, but Baker came back with a 3-pointer to extend the lead to 56-38.
Baker also had success driving into the middle and drawing contact.
“It’s kind of the way I’ve played my whole life,” he said. “I’m used to falling down and getting back up, being bruised up a little bit, and I think that’s part of what makes me a great player.”
Long Beach managed to get back within 15 points, but Lassina Traore missed the front end of a one-and-one with 12: 43 left and the Anteaters answered with a 10-0 run to put the game away.
The Anteaters came in 21st in the nation in bench scoring (29.7) and received 25 points from their reserves against LBSU.
Andre Henry led the bench players with nine points and seven rebounds.
“I say all the time, you have to be ready when your name is called, and Andre was that tonight,” Turner said. “His seven rebounds showed his focus and intensity.”