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It’s Not Pretty, but Irvine Will Take the Victory

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Big West has struggled in its attempt to gain respect during the nonconference season and UC Irvine and Pacific did little to help the league’s image during the conference opener Tuesday night at the Bren Center.

There was lots banging, bumping and bricking, but not much in the way of basketball. How ugly was it? Irvine shot 35% from the floor and won going away, 72-54. The smart Irvine fans were not among the 1,189 in the building; they were the ones at home watching Nebraska beat Florida for the national football championship.

“The only thing uglier than that game would be me in a Speedo,” Pacific trainer Chris Pond said.

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Fifty-one fouls were called, 32 on the Tigers. Pacific, which shot 27% from the field in the second half, was only a single percentage point better from the free-throw line. Nine minutes into the second half, the Tigers (4-5) had made one field goal and two free throws and Irvine (4-4) had turned a five-point halftime advantage into a 46-35 lead.

Irvine’s big three--sophomore forward Kevin Simmons, senior point guard Raimonds Miglinieks and sophomore guard Brian Keefe--combined for 48 points.

Simmons, back from a one-game suspension for breaking an unspecified team rule, had game highs in points (24) and rebounds (15). Miglinieks, the only player that seemed capable of making two free throws in a row, was 11 of 14 from the line, scored 13 points, had nine assists and seven rebounds. Keefe had 11 points.

“It was not a nice game for the spectators,” Miglinieks said, smiling, “but it was a huge win for us.”

Anteater Coach Rod Baker could not have agreed more.

“This isn’t diving,” he said. “There are no style points. The game never got into a flow, there was never more than one or two possessions without a whistle. But you have to learn to play through a game like this. Bottom line is we held them to 54 points and that’s the reason we won.”

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