A popular first round upset in the 2019 NCAA Tournament was 13-seed UC-Irvine potentially knocking off 4-seed Kansas State in the South Region of the bracket. The Anteaters were one of the hottest teams in the nation coming into the game, sitting at 30-5 and riding a 16-game win streak, while the Wildcats were without the services of injured big man Dean Wade.
Those prognosticators ended up being correct, as the Big West champions knocked off the Big 12 regular season co-champions, 70-64.
The Anteaters were led by standout guards Max Hazzard and Evan Leonard, both of whom scored 19 points on the afternoon. Hazzard went 5-for-11 from behind the three-point line, while Leonard filled up the box score, pitching in six rebounds, four assists, and four steals en route to the first NCAA Tournament win in program history.
The game was close throughout, and thanks to a cold blooded triple by Hazzard, UC-Irvine went to the locker room tied with Kansas State at 30.
Whenever the Anteaters needed anything, you could expect one of those two to come up big. For example, with less than nine minutes left in the game and the Wildcats up by four, Leonard got a wide open look from deep and buried it.
Still, Kansas State kept fighting, and the pairing of Kamau Stokes and Makol Mawien did what they could to keep their team afloat. It wasn’t quite enough, especially because Hazzard drilled a cold-blooded three with about 90 seconds left.
Playing in a mid-major on the west coast means a team can slide under the radar, so while the Anteaters have been one heck of a team for a while — they entered Friday’s game 74th in KenPom — this was an opportunity to announce their arrival to the nation. They managed to do just that, and now, Russell Turner’s bunch will try to keep on dancing on Sunday when they play the winner of Wisconsin-Oregon