UC Irvine gave Coach Pat Douglass a nice birthday present Thursday night.
The Anteaters started strong and finished strong to stay in first place in the Big West Conference with a 66-62 victory over Pacific at Stockton.
The Anteaters (11-4, 5-1) got 20 points from guard Mike Hood and 17 points from forward Jordan Harris. Harris made two free throws in the final two seconds to secure the win. It was the third consecutive loss for Pacific (8-7, 3-3), which jumped out to a 9-6 lead, but could never get even after Hood made a three-point shot with 14 minutes to go that gave the Anteaters an 11-9 lead.
From there, Irvine used a 22-5 run to take a 28-14 advantage with 6:25 to play. But Pacific, which went nearly 10 minutes without a field goal during that Anteater run, fought back, in part by using nine free throws. The Tigers finished the half trailing only 30-27.
Pacific got within one point several times, but Hood gave the Anteaters some breathing room with a three-point basket with 20 seconds left for a four-point cushion.
Pacific guard Demetrius Jackson made a jumper that was ruled a two-point shot with three seconds remaining to make it 64-62, but Jordan was fouled a second later and made both free throws.
“I thought this was our best game of the season at both ends of the court,” said Douglass, who turned 53. “This is a tough place to win.”
Utah State 77, UC Riverside 58 -- Desmond Penigar scored 18 points to lead the Aggies (14-4, 5-2 Big West) to victory over the Highlanders (3-9, 2-4) at Logan, Utah. Klaus Schille scored 12 for Riverside, which committed 18 turnovers.
Idaho 56, Cal State Fullerton 49 -- Tyrone Hayes had a game-high 17 points and Idaho made 11 consecutive free throws down the stretch to hold off the Titans at Moscow, Idaho. Idaho (7-9, 3-4 Big West) never trailed in winning for the first time in three games. Cal State Fullerton (5-11, 3-3) has lost three in a row.