Anteaters Have Reached the Big Time


Big-time college basketball came to Orange County Wednesday night.

It came to the Bren Center with blue-and-gold-painted faces. It came three hours before game time, 350 students standing in line to attend a UC Irvine basketball game. This is what happens at Duke or Kentucky but not in Irvine, never in Irvine.

Big-time college basketball was wearing goofy wigs and silly grins. It came 5,231 strong, the biggest crowd in Bren Center history. This is a place where one jersey is retired, where there is one postseason banner hanging. But on this night, on this glorious evening of tension and exhilaration, big-time basketball was ringing the court, standing room only.

Big-time college basketball came running in at halftime, breathless and lugging briefcases and computer bags, better late than never, better to get here for 20 minutes of history than to miss it all.


Big-time college basketball came to the Bren Center on size 21 shoes. Dave Korfman, the 7-foot-2 center who passed out in the weight room and knocked himself unconscious a month ago played his first game since the accident. “I knew I could play,” Korfman said. “I never thought I’d see this kid back so soon,” said his awe-struck coach, Pat Douglass.

Korfman drew two crucial fouls in the first half and took up plenty of space. “It was a big boost that Dave made it back,” teammate Malachi Edmond said. “It was an emotional pickup.”

A big-time college basketball player was showcased in Orange County Wednesday night.

Is there a better guard on the West Coast, a better college player in Southern California than UCI guard Jerry Green? Green has jitterbug quickness, a deadly shot and the will of a winner. He scored a game-high 22 points. He had a game-high 10 rebounds. He was cramping badly enough that it caused him to miss four free throws. But it didn’t matter.

The Anteaters won.

The Anteaters beat Utah State, 56-51, and there hasn’t been a college basketball win this big in Orange County in, oh, decades. At least it seems that way. The Aggies had won 26 straight Big West games. The Aggies were 16-0 in the Big West last season. The Aggies had that swagger about them. When the UCI students rolled into the Bren, pointing fingers, making fun of the portly Aggie forward Shawn Daniels, the Aggies laughed.

Stew Morrill’s team is well-coached and well-toughened. The Aggies have become used to using the Big West as a two-month prep course for the NCAA tournament.

You need to beat a Utah State to make a statement. You need a Utah State to pack your gym.

Edmond and Ben Jones are the two original Anteaters, the two guys who have been here since Pat Douglass arrived to coach the woebegone program. “I thought I’d see us turn into winners,” Jones, who is from La Habra, said. “I never expected to see standing room only at the Bren.”


A future star was introduced to Orange County Wednesday night.

Adam Parada, a 7-foot red-shirt freshman from Alta Loma, sank a shocking, nerveless, perfect net-tickling 14-foot baseline jump shot with 1:20 left in the game to put the Anteaters ahead for good, 53-51.

“Never seen him make that shot in a game,” Douglass said.

“He’s made those in practice, over and over,” Jones said, “but in a game? No.”

“I had to take it,” Parada said. “If I didn’t, we would have had to start the play over and we didn’t have enough time. So I had to take it and I had to make it.” So he did. He took it and made it.

Douglass was nearly awe-struck with Parada’s guts. “That’s the kind of shot, here in this atmosphere, that can give him a lot of confidence for the rest of his career,” Douglass said.

Parada also had a crucial blocked shot 40 seconds before that, a blocked shot which Irvine recovered. It is the kind of performance champions need, something special from someplace unexpected, from a freshman with good hands and quick feet and who, with an extra 20 pounds or so, is going to be a dominator.

But with all this thunder, with the noise, with the men’s volleyball team parading around the court at every time out, making the crowd stand and yell, with the cheerleaders throwing candy bars and yellow balls to the fans and the PA announcer begging them not to throw the treats back onto the floor, with attention being paid, the game finally mattering, the worst thing that could have happened didn’t.

The Anteaters didn’t lose. They won.

In March the Big West tournament comes to Orange County. The Anaheim Convention Center will host the event where the winner goes to the NCAA tournament. If these 5,231 people come back and bring some friends, the Anteaters might just win the thing.


“It was so awesome,” Parada said. “I couldn’t even hear myself thinking after I made the shot.”

“To have everything come together like this, standing room only,” Jones said, “we had to win. We got them to come here and we wanted to give them a reason to come back.”

Jones and his teammates did. If you were at the Bren Center on Wednesday night, you will want to come back. It’s big-time college basketball after all. Welcome to Orange County.

Diane Pucin can be reached at her e-mail address: