Brooks grew up in nearby Lathrop and always dreamed of playing for UOP. But the Tigers' coaching staff thought he was too short and didn't offer him a scholarship. The 5-11 guard turned in a solid--if unspectacular--performance that night last season, finishing with 10 points.
Saturday night, however, was the senior guard's last chance and, with a cheering section that included his mother, Lee; his East Union (Manteca) High School Coach, Bill Stricker, and about 50 other well-wishers, Brooks was obviously inspired. He went to the basket with abandon, arched in three-pointers with his usual accuracy (7 of 11), missed just one free throw (10 of 11) and tied the Spanos Center scoring record with 41 points as the Anteaters beat the Tigers, 90-79, in front of 3,800.
The win just about assured Irvine (13-13 overall, 8-9 in conference) a spot in the Pacific Coast Athletic Assn. tournament and virtually ended Pacific's hopes. The Tigers (10-15, 6-10) have two games left, both on the road and one against No. 1-ranked Nevada Las Vegas.
UOP was bent on stopping Brooks from the outset. O'Neill had 6-7 sophomore Willie Tatum, a quick forward known for his defense, guarding Brooks, sometimes hounding him from the moment he got the ball in the backcourt.
It didn't matter.
"I don't want to admit it," he said sheepishly, "but I did want to take it to these guys. The most important thing is that we won, but this was special . . . really special."
Brooks now has the second and third highest-scoring games in UCI history. He scored 43 against Utah State last month, second only to Kevin Magee, who scored 46 in 1981.
Brooks was gaining confidence as the game progressed. His last basket was a driving, reverse-pivot, left-handed layup right out of the Magic Johnson playbook that gave the Anteaters a 90-79 lead with 22 seconds remaining. He then missed his only free throw of the night with 14 seconds left.
It was one of only two free throws Irvine missed all night. The Anteaters were 23 of 25 at the line.
The Tigers, who trailed by six at halftime, kept the game close until the last five minutes. Tatum scored 23 points for UOP and guard Christian Gray had 18.
But they couldn't match Irvine's mini scoring machine on this evening.