Around UC Irvine, the phrase inside game is usually used only when referring to the fact that the Anteaters do indeed play basketball under a roof and surrounded by four walls.
Power basketball? Bone-crunching under the boards? Not at Irvine, where the primary game plan is tiny Scott Brooks shooting from three-point land.
However, on those nights when Brooks fails to score 30 points or so, the Anteaters can be easy prey.
But in an 81-66 victory over the 49ers before 3,244 fans at the Bren Center, the Anteaters took an adventure in previously unchartered territory.
They won this one from five feet in.
Center Wayne Engelstad had a season-high 26 points and 11 rebounds, hitting 9 of 15 field-goal attempts. Forward Frank Woods added 22 points on 8-of-10 shooting. He also had 10 rebounds--6 of those offensive, all but one coming in the first half.
And, Irvine outrebounded Long Beach, 41-27.
How significant were these numbers? Well, consider that:
--The Irvine backcourt of Brooks, Kevin Floyd and Mike Hess totaled just 25 points.
--Brooks, averaging 23.3 points a game, managed but 17 while missing 6 of 7 three-point attempts.
--Irvine (11-8, 6-4) didn't score from outside 19-9 until only 7:31 remained in the second half.
Yet Irvine avenged Monday's 78-71 loss at Long Beach with relative ease--opening a 10-point lead at halftime, blowing it in less than eight minutes and then recovering for an eventual 15-point victory.
And the Anteaters did it by . . . going inside .
"It's a change. It's definitely a change," said Woods with a grin as big as the four first-half baskets he scored on tips and follow shots.
"I don't know how I managed to get open like that. Either my man was losing me or the ball was hanging on the rim. I can't remember when I've gotten that many offensive rebounds. It's been a while."
Engelstad, in his third season as an Anteater, knows about the scrawny image Irvine has--despite his 240 pounds.
"Yeah, Coach Bo (assistant coach Mike Bokosky) kinda pounds that into us," Engelstad said. "You always hear, 'Irvine's soft.'
"Personally, I don't think I'm soft. I'm not afraid of banging with anybody. But stuff like that gets me pumped up. If anybody thinks I'm soft, I'd like to see how they feel the morning after."
The emphasis on inside offense was premeditated. Irvine Coach Bill Mulligan watched the videotape from the first Long Beach game and figured the 49ers would key on Brooks. In that game, Brooks scored 23 points.
Long Beach (10-10, 5-3) shot well enough--52%--and had three players score in double figures. Rigo Moore led with 14 points, followed by Andre Purry with 13 and DeAnthony Langston with 10. But on this night, Long Beach became that rare opponent to actually get outmuscled by the Anteaters.
And now Irvine is 6-4 in the PCAA, just a half-game behind the second-place 49ers.
"If anyone had told me before the season that we'd be 6-4 at this stage," Mulligan said, "I'd have married 'em."