UC Irvine played about as well as it can Monday night. The Anteaters made 46% of their shots and 78% of their free throws. Point guard Raimonds Miglinieks had 22 points, 12 assists and only three turnovers. Their forwards made 24 of 47 shots and combined for 62 points.
And they lost their fifth in a row.
Utah State, 11-2 overall and 5-0 in the Big West Conference, made 10 of 11 shots during a five-minute stretch late in the second half and held off a furious Irvine (4-8, 0-5) rally for a 93-87 victory before 1,875 in the Bren Center.
"I feel sorry for Irvine," Utah State Coach Larry Eustachy said. "They've got a good collection of players. Things just haven't gone their way yet."
Now the Aggies, well, everything's going their way. They won their eighth in a row and are off to their best start in 12 years.
"We're going for (former Nevada Las Vegas coach Jerry Tarkanian's) record of 34 in a row," Eustachy said, smiling.
Both Irvine's and Utah State's streaks appeared to be in jeopardy. The Anteaters were playing intense defense and had a one-point lead at halftime despite the Aggies' 11 offensive rebounds. And Irvine led, 57-50, with 13:34 to play.
But Utah State turned a two-point deficit into a six-point lead by making 10 of 11 shots from the 10:13 mark to 5:05. And then a few seconds later, Corwin Woodard--who led the Aggies with 24 points--dribbled the ball off his foot, scooped it up and threw in a 15-footer to give Utah State an 80-72 lead.
Irvine had two chances to cut the Aggies' lead to two points in the last 45 seconds but senior forward Khalid Channell missed a 10-foot jumper in the lane and Miglinieks' layup bounced around the rim and fell off.
The Aggies threw two long passes over the Anteater press for dunks that put the game away.
"I'm out of things to say," said Irvine's Mark Odsather. "Every night someone seems to step up and have a career night against us. I guess it's the Irvine jinx."