UC Irvine Finally Finds a Big West Team It Can Beat
It was the perfect setting for the Battle of the Beaten.
A smattering of about 400 curious fans (announced attendance was 1,037) ventured out on a stormy Sunday afternoon and gathered in the 60-year-old San Jose Civic Auditorium to see a pair of teams that had combined to lose 12 consecutive games, six each.
UC Irvine and San Jose State were both 0 for ’95, but on this afternoon, a loser would be king . . . for a day, anyway.
Irvine (5-9, 1-6) built a 15-point lead midway through the second half and then made 13 of 18 free throws in the final five minutes to register its first Big West victory of the season, 85-74. San Jose State, despite its highest scoring game of the season and 49% shooting, dropped to 1-14, 0-7.
The Anteaters, who begin a four-game home stand against Long Beach State on Thursday night, finally played a team so bad that even they couldn’t find a way to lose. After blowing first-half leads of nine or more points four times in conference games, they built on a two-point halftime advantage and held on.
Irvine employed a 2-3 zone defense almost the entire game. It didn’t exactly hurt the Spartans’ shooting percentage, but it did slow their inside game. Center Mike Brotherton, who led San Jose State with a 14-point average in Big West play, had 10 points and four rebounds.
“Their zone was effective because we were very ineffective in moving the ball,” Spartan Coach Stan Morrison said. “Everybody was waiting for someone else to take charge. We didn’t flash to the basket and we didn’t make them foul us. And they rebounded very well out of it.”
Don’t expect to see the Anteaters playing a lot of the 2-3, though. Sunday was the first time in his nine years as a head coach that Rod Baker used the defense.
“I’m a little less stupid than I am stubborn,” Baker said. “When you’re losing, you try to come up with some answers. So I figured we could at least look at it and see.”
Guard Raimonds Miglinieks and Brian Keefe combined to make 10 of 21 shots from the field and 19 of 23 free throws for 44 points.
“I was sick of losing,” said Miglinieks, who scored 23 points.