UC Irvine blew a 14-point second-half lead and lost in overtime, 95-94, to Utah State Thursday night in front of 3,361 in the Bren Center.
The Anteaters, 11-5 overall and 8-9 in Big West play, will probably have to play in the qualifying round of the Big West tournament next Wednesday at the Long Beach Arena.
The Anteaters are currently tied for seventh place with Fresno State. However, they still could end up in a three-way tie for sixth with Fresno and Cal State Fullerton. In that case, they would avoid playing a qualifying-round game because they would be seeded No. 6 due to tiebreaker rules.
Utah State (12-14, 10-7) outscored Irvine, 14-0, in a span of less than three minutes late in the second half after trailing, 74-60, with 7:07 to play.
Still, Irvine had a chance to win the game in regulation when Ricky Butler, who scored 22 to lead Irvine, missed a 10-foot baseline jumper with two seconds left.
Irvine trailed by as many as six, 92-86, in the overtime when the Aggies had their biggest lead of the game, but Justin Anderson’s three-pointer with six seconds left pulled the Anteaters to within one, 95-94.
Irvine quickly fouled guard Reid Newey, the conference’s best free-throw shooter at 81%, but the senior guard missed the front end of the one-and-one and Irvine freshman Elgin Rogers grabbed the rebound, dribbled to midcourt and flung the ball out of bounds on what was either a poor shot or an errant pass.
Newey, who had 26 points in Utah State’s 104-71 victory earlier this season, picked up his fourth foul with 16:24 left but managed to keep from fouling out.
Three Anteaters weren’t as fortunate. Senior Mike Doktorczyk, Irvine’s leading scorer, andguard Kevin Floyd and Butler fouled out.
With Rod Palmer ill, Irvine’s Mike Labat got his first start since the team’s Big West opener at UC Santa Barbara.
Labat scored eight first-half points and did a good job of defending Newey, who had only 15 points.