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The Colleges : UC Irvine Notebook / John Weyler : Rough Start Has Had Its Smooth Moments

The 1988-89 basketball season is still well short of the halfway mark, but it already has been a long, winding and often bumpy road for UC Irvine. Some observations after the first 10 games:

--USC Coach George Raveling says coaches who over-schedule “end up working at K mart.” Bill Mulligan doesn’t figure to be alerting shoppers to blue-light specials any time soon, but the veteran UC Irvine coach is beginning to think Raveling may have a point.

After watching the Anteaters stagger to a 3-6 nonconference record (0-1 in the Big West), Mulligan has yearned for a few Azusa Pacifics and USIUs to mix in with the Virginias, Pepperdines and San Diego States.

There is one drawback, however. Had he been adhering to Raveling’s philosophy when last week’s UCLA game was scheduled, Irvine would be without one of its biggest victories ever.

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The timing of the 91-90 victory over the Bruins was nice, too. The Anteaters received a much-needed confidence boost before embarking on a Big West schedule that includes six of the next eight games in the other guy’s gym.

“You see UCLA and then we win that game and you start to think, ‘Hey, we’re pretty good,’ ” Mulligan said. “But then you watch some tapes of Santa Barbara, see a good, veteran New Mexico State team win by just 5 at Fullerton and read the Fresno State score (the Bulldogs won, 76-72, at Utah State) and you start to wonder.

“I never do goals. I mean, we’d like to win more games than we won in the nonconference season, but I don’t think you can ever tell a team that they’ve got to win a certain game.”

--Another look at the tape of the upset of UCLA makes the outcome easier to understand. The Bruins were generally uninspired after jumping out to a 12-3 lead in just 2 1/2 minutes. And three Anteaters played as well they can while three others performed admirably.

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Forwards Mike Doktorczyk and Jeff Herdman were a combined 13 of 17 from the field and 6 of 6 from 3-point range. They also combined to haul in 12 rebounds.

Herdman was clearly in front of the line on one 3-pointer and Doktorczyk was more than a yard behind it on one of his bombs, but both played inspired basketball and shot incredibly well.

Mike Labat, Ricky Butler and Rod Palmer (a combined 13 of 32 from the field), didn’t shoot as accurately as Herdman and Doktorczyk, but they chipped in with a total of 32 points and 10 rebounds and played key defensive roles.

The play of Kevin Floyd, Irvine’s senior guard, was the biggest factor, though. He bordered on being out of control all evening, but somehow only good things happened when he appeared to be racing headlong into trouble. When he recklessly charged toward the hoop--which was often--he either managed to draw a foul or somehow slip the ball into the basket.

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Floyd played 37 minutes, handled the ball most of the night and committed just 3 turnovers. That is probably his most impressive statistic on a night when he was 10 of 16 from the floor and 6 of 7 from the free throw line with 8 assists and 3 steals.

“I think Floyd finally has turned the corner,” Mulligan said. “He’s becoming more of a leader. He scored 29 at (Las) Vegas, 20 before fouling out at Virginia and 26 against UCLA. Besides that, he’s playing point guard without turning the ball over.

“He looks out of control sometimes, but we’re almost to the point where you let him go a little. He has so much ability. Of course, if he goes completely goofy, I’ll still nail him.”

--Good fortune is always a factor in close games, and Irvine had its share against the Bruins.

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With 3:06 remaining, UCLA forward Don MacLean tipped the ball into the Irvine basket while trying to gain control of a rebound. That gave Irvine an 84-79 advantage.

Then there was the foul on Darrick Martin that UCLA Coach Jim Harrick called “a joke.” Mike Labat was driving through the lane when he slipped and fell. Harrick wanted a traveling call, but television replays clearly showed Martin’s hand on Labat’s hip.

Was Labat pushed or would he have slipped, anyway? Who knows, but the call was no joke. Labat made both free throws and Irvine led, 89-87, with 12 seconds left.

Even Floyd might admit a few of his flying layups were lucky shots. Maybe. But his coast-to-coast looping layup at the buzzer was athleticism as art.

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--Mulligan has changed the Anteaters’ style of play more often than some guys change their socks, but he insists his unwillingness to give up the full-court press for good is at the root of Irvine’s woes.

“Here’s the bottom line,” he said. “I screwed up by playing the style I wanted to play and even more by being too stubborn to realize we couldn’t play that way and win.

“When we got behind, 23-9, to Virginia, I finally said we’re going to go to a style where we at least have a chance to win. It’s the reason we’re so far behind. We’ve spent too much time working on the wrong things.

“It’s my responsibility that our record isn’t better. I know it falls on me. And I’ll never again make that mistake.”

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--Then again, maybe Irvine’s poor start can be attributed to a lack of bad chemistry. “Everyone’s working so hard together,” Mulligan said. “Hell, nobody’s even disgruntled.”

Anteater Notes

The men’s swimming team, which finished 10th overall and sixth among college teams at the U.S. Open Swimming Championships last month, will be back in action Saturday and Sunday when it plays host to the UCI Invitational at Heritage Park. Sixteen men’s teams and 14 women’s teams are expected to compete. Third-ranked USC, led by Olympian Dave Wharton, will be the favorite in the men’s competition. . . . Two Irvine water polo players were named All-Americans this week. Junior Tom Warde, who scored 108 goals this season, was a first-team selection, and Tony Bell, a senior who scored 65, was a third-team pick.

Four men’s tennis players--Mike Briggs, Richard Lubner, Shige Kanroji and Mike Cadigan--will compete this weekend in the National Collegiate Tennis Classic at Shadow Mountain Resort and Tennis Club in Palm Desert. Briggs, who is not a nationally ranked singles player, recently returned from the Citrus Bowl Tournament in Orlando, where he won the singles consolation championship, defeating 14th-ranked Mario Rincon of Kentucky and 25th-ranked Steve Longley of South Carolina in the process. . . . Wayne Engelstad, the former Irvine standout who was cut by the Denver Nuggets last month, is reportedly heading for the Albany Patroons of the Continental Basketball Assn.

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How They Stack Up: USA Today’s basketball rankings, which take into account the strength of schedule, list UCLA 22nd, Pepperdine 46th, Virginia 84th, Georgia State 105th, San Diego State 115th, Loyola of Chicago 131st and University of San Francisco 169th. Irvine is No. 175.


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