Pasadena native Robert Cartwright proved he was a winner when he helped Flintridge Prep capture the CIF Southern Section Division 5AA championship in 2011 as a freshman, and he continues to show that on one of the largest stages in sports.
Cartwright recently led the UC Irvine men’s basketball program to a historic season with 31 victories and its first-ever NCAA Tournament win. The squad also put together a 17-game winning streak, the longest in program history.
The No. 13-seeded Anteaters (31-6 overall record) upset No. 4 Kansas State, 70-64, in the first round of the tourney on March 22 before suffering a 73-54 defeat two days later against Pac-12 Tournament champion Oregon, which entered the competition as the No. 12 seed.
Cartwright scored 10 points in UC Irvine’s win over the Wildcats, five of which came early in the second half after UC Irvine trailed, 17-9. He hit a 3-pointer and then a layup to chip away at the deficit and get the Anteaters back into the game.
“We believed that we had a chance to win this game,” Cartwright said following the win. “We prepared like we were going to have a chance to win this game and made the plays necessary. A lot of credit to Kansas State, they played really hard and made it really hard for us down the stretch. But we have a supreme belief in our group that we make the plays necessary to win.”
Cartwright, who averaged 7.1 points per game, continued his solid play in the second round with a team-high 14 points against Oregon. UC Irvine erased a 12-point deficit in the second half and led 37-35 after a layup from Cartwright with 14:28 remaining in the game. However, the Ducks mustered a 15-3 run to take control of the game and pull away from the Anteaters.
“I feel like we gave everything we have,” Cartwright said in the press conference. “I know the final score isn’t indicative of how hard we played tonight and the entire season. Looking back on it, we’re extremely grateful that we’ve had this experience, and I know we believe we could have gone farther.”
Cartwright graduated from Stanford last spring and was a member of the men’s basketball team. He showed promise in his first season but an injury derailed his career with the Cardinal. The former Rebel came off the bench most of the time in his final two campaigns. Cartwright transferred to UC Irvine as a graduate student and had a season to remember with the Anteaters.
“I told the team just a few minutes ago how grateful I am and thankful for how they embraced me this year and the coaching staff and everybody around the program,” Cartwright said. “Obviously, it hurts and once the reality of the fact that our college career is over hits, it’s going to hurt, but my heart is full.”