On the night they traded in a broken-down and outdated Crawford Hall for spacious and shiny Bren Center, the UC Irvine Anteaters nearly eclipsed the greatest legend of the tiny gym that housed them for 20 years.
Kevin Magee's school scoring record of 46 points barely survived Thursday's Bren Center opener, a 118-96 Irvine victory over Utah State. With 4,542 settling into the $15-million arena for the first time, Irvine guard Scott Brooks sank 12 of 19 field-goal attempts, 7 of 14 three-point tries and 12 of 13 free throws for 43 points.
It was the second-highest scoring total in Irvine history, Magee's 1981 record standing alone only when Brooks' final shot, a three-point try with 1:02 left, kicked off the heel of the rim and bounced long.
Six seconds later, Anteater Coach Bill Mulligan removed Brooks from the game.
"No way Brooks was going to break Magee's record," said Mulligan, who might have been joking. Magee, remember, came along with Mulligan from Saddleback College to Irvine in 1980, briefly turning Crawford Hall into a mini-mecca for hoops. In his two years at Irvine, Magee led the nation in scoring and led the Anteaters to 17-10 and 23-7 records.
Mulligan has suggested that Irvine's new basketball facility be named the Magee Center--"because he was the one who put this program on the map."
Today, Magee is a high-scoring, highly paid professional playing in Tel Aviv.
"Magee would've called me from Israel if his record was broken," Mulligan said.
Mulligan then broke into a wide grin. Both he and Brooks claimed no knowledge of the potential record as the final minutes ticked away.
"I knew I had a lot of points, but I thought I was somewhere around 32," Brooks said.
Mulligan: "My assistant (Bob Thate) told me, 'I think he has over 40.' If I'd known he had 43 at the time, I would've taken him out earlier. We gave him a chance to tie it with that three-pointer at the end."
Brooks, a 5-10 senior guard, reached 43 points despite a 3-for-7 first half, which included four misses in four three-point attempts. But in the second half, he made five straight three-pointers in one stretch, scoring 29 points in 20 minutes.
With 6:16 remaining, Brooks had 39 points, placing Magee's mark in major danger. But after that, he attempted just four more shots, making two on length-of-the-court drives--the last complete with a 360-degree spin at midcourt to lose a Utah State defender.
"I call that my Wickety-Whap-To-The-Hole," Brooks said, laughing. "Just one of my playground moves."
Joe Buchanan, Irvine's point guard and playmaker, also pleaded ignorance about the moment at hand.
"I knew he had a lot of three-pointers, but I wasn't aware of his points," Buchanan said. "If I'd have known how many, I'd have given him the ball a little more.
"He had a memorable night the way it was; He hit one shot from the ozone layer. But the record definitely would have been the way to break in this place."
Brooks claimed he asked out of the game in the final two minutes.
"I wanted out," he said. "I wasn't out there to run up the score. That's not my personality.
"I'm not after any record. It doesn't mean anything. The big thing is winning. We couldn't afford to lose four in a row."
The Anteaters took an 0-2 Pacific Coast Athletic Assn. record into Thursday's game and had also lost their last nonconference game to Iowa. With Frank Woods and Wayne Engelstad contributing 17 points apiece, Irvine evened its overall mark at 6-6.
Utah State is 1-2 and 8-7.
Brooks' previous high had been 36 points, which he set against Nebraska Nov. 28 in Crawford Hall. After closing Crawford a month later with a victory over Pepperdine, Brooks all but shed tears over the impending move to the Bren Center.
"I'm don't know if I want to leave this place," Brooks had said. "This gym has been awful good to me."
His thoughts now?
"Where's Crawford Hall?," he said with a smile. "I love it here. It's my favorite place."
Mulligan, too, had glowing reviews for the Bren Center.
"I love it, it's great," he said. "Especially the result."