A ferocious crowd wasn’t enough to carry the 49ers (13-12, 7-2) past the Anteaters (14-9, 7-2) as sophomore guard Martin took advantage of LBSU’s disorganized defense.
“[Martin] made a hell of a shot,” Irvine head coach Russell Turner said.
With 10 seconds left, senior guard McKay LaSalle hit a three-pointer to give the 49ers a 55-54 lead. After an Irvine timeout, Martin caught the ball at midcourt, drove all the way to the rim and scored the game-winning layup with 1.7 seconds remaining.
“We were soft on the last play,” head coach Dan Monson said. “We didn’t look organized. We seemed confused over who we had [on the court]. They made the play and deserved to win.”
The 49ers got off to a dismal start in the first half, which reminded fans of their start against Hawaii on Jan. 31. Irvine came out more focused and prepared, and showed off its impressive frontcourt depth.
“[Irvine] came in here missing two of their best players,” head coach Dan Monson said. “They dictated the game for the majority of it. They came out and were the aggressor early. We’re down 14 before we know what happened.”
The Anteaters were without sophomore center Mamadou Ndiaye and junior guard Alex Young, but did regain sophomore guard Luke Nelson, who missed the first matchup on Jan. 8. Ndiaye and Young are both out indefinitely with foot injuries, according to Irvine’s Sports Information Director Bob Olsen.
In Ndiaye and Young’s absence, senior forward Will Davis had a season-high 22 points, 16 of which came in the first half. Monson said part of Davis’ big night was how the 49ers guarded him.
“I don’t know that we did a good job, coaching-wise, of how we guarded the ball screen early,” Monson said. “Trying to trap the ball screens left us vulnerable inside. I just thought he was more aggressive. We were standing behind him and trying to guard him after he caught the ball.”
The 49ers trailed 34-27 at the half after being down as many as 14. Senior guard Tyler Lamb carried the 49ers for much of the game, scoring 14 points while going three of six from beyond the arc.
“I think we came out in the second half and played well,” Lamb said. “We played hard. But it takes a full game against any team in this conference.”
LBSU’s comeback was due in part to Irvine loosening its dominant inside game in the second half, instead settling for long jumpers.
“Coach Monson came in at half and made everybody realize what’s at stake,” Lamb said. “Even though we already knew [what was at stake], I think we weren’t playing like it in the first half. To try to play well for just one half against a team like [Irvine] is not going to work.”