IRVINE — Their edge was the first to go. Next, went the lead. Finally, it was first-year coach Russell Turner's temper that made the final departure in the UC Irvine Anteaters' 85-70 nonconference men's basketball loss to San Jose State on Saturday at the Bren Events Center.
The Spartans (5-2) used an overwhelming backcourt to overcome an 11-2 deficit, eventually taking control toward the end of a first half in which the Anteaters led for the first 13:28.
But when senior guard Justin Graham converted a three-point play that put the visitors up, 18-17, the Spartans never trailed again.
The frustration mounted for the Anteaters, who shot 49% from the field, but were bested, 45-30, on the glass.
Finally, with 4:08 left in the game, Turner was given a technical foul for voicing his displeasure over a foul call. He then stepped onto the court and barked an obscenity at the official, who whistled a second technical that brought an automatic ejection.
"I lost my composure and I've got to not do that," said Turner, who had not had a technical in his first seven games.
Turner said his team, which came in with wins in four of its last five games, may have been guilty of losing focus after seizing a nine-point cushion while the Spartans missed their first nine field-goal tries.
"We started the game well," Turner said of the 'Eaters, playing their fifth straight game without junior standout Eric Wise, who is sidelined with a hip-flexor strain. "We played well and defended and got a good lead. And then we just couldn't make enough plays to build on that.
"I felt like we were on a good little roll and getting better, until tonight. I think that's what happens — when you start to feel good, you lose your edge, and maybe that happened tonight."
UCI went 5:29 without a point after taking a 17-11 advantage and trailed, 34-27, at halftime.
After a 5-2 UCI run to start the second half, San Jose, which has now beaten UCI three times in just less than 12 months, scored six straight. UCI never again got closer than five.
"Give them credit, they beat us," Turner said. "They took it to us. They rebounded over the top of us and ran by us and scored in transition. They were good."
Turner singled out Graham, who collected 21 points, six rebounds, five assists and four steals.
Senior Adrian Oliver, who scored 60 points in two games against UCI last season and leads the Western Athletic Conference in scoring, added 18 points, 14 in the second half.
Chris Jones had 15 off the bench for the Spartans, who had five scorers in double figures.
Four UCI starters reached double figures, led by sophomore Mike Wilder who had 15 points and a career-high 11 rebounds.
Sophomore Damon Starring had a season-high 13 points and was five of seven from the field, while senior Darren Moore had 12 points, four rebounds and six turnovers.
Senior Patrick Rembert had 10 points and five assists, but was four of 14 from the field.
UCI has one game in the next 10 days, a break that includes finals week.
"My guys need to get healthy, that's for sure," Turner said. "So, the break's much needed from that standpoint."
In addition to Wise, 6-foot-9 junior Adam Folker is expected back Friday at home against Wyoming. Folker has been out all season with a broken hand.
San Jose State 85, UC Irvine 70
SJS – Carter 12. Ballard 1, Graham 21, Oliver 18, Shamburger 12, Jones 15, Douglas 4, Moor 2.
3-pt. goals – Shamburger 2, Graham 1, Oliver 1, Jones 1.
Fouled out – None.
Technicals – None.
UCI – Losonsky 6, Wilder 15, Starring 13, Moore 12, Rembert 10, McNealy 6, Flowers 4, Simek 4.
3-pt. goals – Wise 2 , Rembert 2, Starring 2, Moore 1.
Fouled out – Losonsky.
Technicals – Turner 2.
Halftime: SJS, 34-27.