STOCKTON — As far as UC Irvine is concerned, the only good thing about Fresno is that it's a reasonably short bus ride from the University of the Pacific. What better team to play after one of your worst games of the season than one you had beaten 11 straight times?
The Anteaters made it an even dozen Saturday night with an 83-75 win over UOP before an estimated 3,500 spectators at Spanos Center.
Johnny Rogers scored 26 points--including 18 in the second half--and had 13 rebounds, and Tod Murphy bounced back from a nightmarish experience Thursday night against Fresno State with 21 points as the Anteaters (7-6 overall, 3-1 in the Pacific Coast Athletic Assn.) eased past the Tigers (8-7 and 1-3).
UC Irvine Coach Bill Mulligan watched with frustration as his team shot 25.9% from the field in Thursday night's 53-48 loss to Fresno State. It was the worst shooting night for the Anteaters since Mulligan became their coach. And it was the latest in a series of 10 straight defeats at Fresno's Selland Arena.
So, it was off to Stockton, where the noise level and the defense are considerably softer. The result was the Anteaters' first win on an opponents' court since an 87-80 victory at Nebraska on Dec. 2.
"It was really necessary for us to win here," UC Irvine guard Joe Buchanan said. "To be a good team, you have to prove you can win on the road."
The win was particularly satisfying for Murphy and Scott Brooks. Murphy was coming off his least productive game since a two-point performance against Nevada Las Vegas during his freshman season. Against Fresno, he was 0 for 6 and had only 4 points before fouling out in the final minutes.
Saturday night, Murphy was 7 of 11 and had 5 assists.
"We had to get at least one win on this trip," Murphy said. "We were hoping for two, but Selland Arena took care of that."
There was no Red Wave awaiting the Anteaters in Stockton. Instead, there was a section of fans at the game only to applaud the performance of Brooks, who attended East Union High School in nearby Manteca and played last season down the road at San Joaquin Delta College in Stockton.
Brooks finished with 10 points against the team that wouldn't offer him a scholarship after last season at Delta.
In the first half, there were no signs of the miserable shooting the Anteaters experienced in Fresno. Murphy was 5 of 7, and Troy Carmon came off the bench to score 11 points and help the Anteaters take a 43-35 halftime lead.
Rogers hit 8 of 9 shots in the second half to hold off a mild UOP comeback. His 18 points in the second half included a string of 8 straight midway through the half, the last of which gave UC Irvine a 69-57 lead with 6:52 to play.