Anteaters Find Way to Lose Again

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Once again Saturday night, the "what-ifs" and "could-haves" piled up like the losses have this season for UC Irvine.

What if Irvine hadn't turned the ball over a season-high 25 times against New Mexico State at the Bren Center? What if the Anteaters hadn't gone flat for five minutes late in the game? What if New Mexico State hadn't gone to the free-throw line 44 times, making 29?

Could Irvine have knocked off New Mexico State?

But those things happened and so Irvine lost to the Aggies, 88-75, before 2,248.

It was Irvine's eighth consecutive loss, three short of the school-record of 11 set 10 years ago. The Anteaters drop to 2-13 overall, 0-6 in Big West Conference play. New Mexico State, leading the conference, is 14-1, 5-0.

For an all-too-brief time it appeared as if Irvine might snap out of its season-long doldrums and upset the Aggies.

The Anteaters cut a 13-point New Mexico State lead to just 62-59 with 8:46 left.

But after a timeout, New Mexico State regained its composure and turned the game into a runaway.

A 15-3 run in the next five minutes built the lead back to 77-62.

Center James Anderson played particularly well for the Aggies, hitting all 10 of his shots from the field for a game-high 30 points.

He had six points, including a one-handed reverse fast-break dunk, during the Aggies' big run.

"I'm not known as a shooter," Anderson said, "but I'm concentrating more."

Keith Hill had 14 points and Reggie Jordan 13 for the Aggies.

Center Ricky Butler, who made all seven of his shots from the field, had 19 points to lead Irvine. Jeff Herdman added 17, Rod Palmer 16 and Jeff Von Lutzow 15.

The Anteaters, whose shooting percentage had been hovering around the 40% mark, shot 50% for only the second time this season.

"We shot 50%, but you have to take away 25 possessions," Irvine Coach Bill Mulligan said, making reference to the Anteaters' 25 turnovers. "You can't turn it over against teams like that."

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