IOWA CITY — UC Irvine's basketball team has played three games already this season, but the Anteaters remain an enigma.
They won their first two at home in the Freedom Bowl tournament, beating Army, 90-68, and Manhattan, 86-83, before losing on the road Tuesday to Pepperdine, 91-89.
The results are not so surprising--considering that the first two teams are among the weakest in Division I and the third figures to be a West Coast power. It's the way Irvine has played that is perplexing.
The Anteaters' balanced, long-range offense overcame their tentative approach to defense in the victories. The defense was more aggressive against the Waves, but uncharacteristically poor shooting--33%--ruined any chance of upsetting Pepperdine.
Coach Bill Mulligan figures to find out more about his team tonight and Saturday night in the sixth-annual Amana-Hawkeye tournament. Tonight, the Anteaters will play Jacksonville (1-1), and sixth-ranked Iowa (4-0) will play Navy (1-1) in the other first-round game.
Jacksonville, which lost to Florida, 82-52, in the first round of the NIT Big Apple tourney and beat Eckerd of St. Petersburg, Fla., 82-57, Monday night, is led by 6-foot 5-inch senior swingman Troy Mundine. Mundine is averaging 13.4 points a game. Coach Rich Haddad, a former Dolphin assistant now in his first season as head coach, inherited a team that was 19-11 last season.
The host Hawkeyes are playing well, having won the Maui tournament last weekend. Iowa won a school-record 30 games last season, including 18 in a row at the start. The Hawkeyes, who have three starters back, including second-team All-Big Ten selection Roy Marble, beat UC Irvine in the championship game of the Anteater tournament last year, 105-103.
Navy is hoping that guard Cliff Rees and forward Derric Turner can fill part of the void left by All-American David Robinson.