Courteous tourists that they are, the members of the Norwegian national basketball team might do well to politely put aside their LET'S GO USA guides and memorize instead one fine point of international barnstorming:
When in America, it is not always necessary to do as the Americans do.
Thursday night, the Norwegians visited UC Irvine's Crawford Hall, where they encountered a different sort of opponent. The UCI Anteaters, with three starters listed at 6-feet 1-inches or less, are not a big-time college basketball team in the traditional sense. Midget racers may be the better description.
The Anteaters run from opening tipoff to closing buzzer, pausing only to wave in fresh runners to replace the fatigued. They run, not by a stroke of ingenuity, but by necessity. When you're packaged as small as UCI is, options are limited.
So Bill Mulligan turned his sprinters loose in a season-opening exhibition and the Norwegians, naively, ran along. This resulted in a deluge of easy lay-up baskets for UCI and an easier 113-101 Anteater victory before a crowd of 987.
UCI shot 60% in the first half, 54% for the game, attempted a total of 81 field goals and had four players score 20 points or more. Scott Brooks, the Anteaters' smallest player at 5-11, led UCI with 26 points, followed by 6-1 guard Joe Buchanan with 22, center Wayne Englestad with 21 and forward Mike Doktorczyk with 20.
Most of these came on the end of mad dashes down the length of the floor, with the heavy-footed Norwegians huffing and puffing to keep up.
Most of the time, most of the Norwegians' running got them only a good view of a fast-break lay-in.
"I don't think they have seen an American team that really runs," Mulligan said. "A lot of people say they run, but they don't, really. Here, we believe in it.
"Anybody who wants to run up and down the court with us, we feel we can beat. Last year, even Las Vegas said they couldn't run with us. But, the Norwegians probably don't read the Vegas newspapers."
Per Toien, the Norwegian coach, had to learn first-hand.
"They are a lot quicker than any of the teams we have played," said Toien, whose club is 4-4 on the tour after victories over Oregon, Oregon State, USF and San Jose State. "It must be fun, to always play like this."
Oregon State is expected to do significantly better in the Pac-10 than UCI is in the Pacific Coast Athletic Assn. The Anteaters were ranked eighth in both the coaches' and media preseason PCAA polls.
Why the vastly different results for Norway?
"With Oregon State, we fitted more into their style," Toien said. "We had a little more time to get back. Here, we had no chance. They were always running up and down the court."
The Norwegians were playing their eighth game in 13 days and Toien admitted his team was fatigued. At the pace UCI maintains, that fatigue quickly translated into exhaustion.
The Anteaters' Run-Don't Walk style took a toll on all--even some Anteaters.
"Our three big men got tired faster than I would've liked," Mulligan said. "Englestad was in there three minutes and he had his hand up."
Englestad and Mulligan should become one of the PCAA's fun couples this season. When Englestad, a small forward as a sophomore, returned to fall practice as a not-so-small 250 pounds, Mulligan dubbed him Fat Wayne and moved him to center. "Fat people play center," Mulligan said.
Thursday night, despite Englestad's 10-of-21 shooting and eight rebounds, Mulligan was continually riding Englestad for, well, his lack of foot-speed.
When you play for Irvine, you had better step lightly. And quickly.
Even Englestad has come to acknowledge this.
"I think we have to run," Englestad said. "I don't think we can play it any other way with three guards. At the end (of the game), when they slowed it down a few times, you saw what happened. They were able to post us up.
"We're quick, and I think we can run. We should be an interesting team, more interesting than people think."
The Anteaters held the Norwegians' interest all right. Run, run, run. The Norwegians simply couldn't stand all the excitement.