CHICAGO — UC Irvine staggered into the Midwest this weekend and happened upon a basketball team that should have been in greater disarray, playing without its top scorer and top rebounder.
But neither the Anteaters' good fortune nor others' misfortune could help Irvine Sunday in a 99-94 loss to Loyola of Chicago before 1,218 at the International Amphitheatre.
Three of Loyola's potential starters--including sophomore center Kenny Miller, who would have been the top returning rebounder in the nation--were unavailable after first-quarter academic difficulties.
Then injuries took a toll on Loyola. Gerald Hayward, the nation's top returning scorer, suffered back spasms and could not play. Guard Keith Carter sprained his ankle and forward Chris Funchess hurt his back.
But Carter and Funchess were among nine Loyola players (including two walk-ons) who suited up, and Carter scored on two acrobatic driving bank shots and made 3 free throws in the final 67 seconds to lift Loyola (3-3) from a 93-92 deficit to victory.
Antowne Johnson, a 6-foot 6-inch forward, led the Ramblers with 28 points and 13 rebounds. Forward Keith Gailes, who didn't play most of the second half because of foul trouble, scored 21 and grabbed 8 rebounds before fouling out. Carter finished with 19 points and 7 assists. And Funchess had 18 points and 8 rebounds.
"I can't believe we lost to that team," said Mike Doktorczyk, who had 14 points and 9 rebounds for Irvine (2-6).
Loyola Coach Gene Sullivan was a little surprised, too. "We used just six players and managed to beat a team that runs this kind of tempo. This is a bigger win than it looks."
Irvine, which trailed, 50-42, at halftime, outscored the Ramblers, 22-11, in the first 6 minutes of the second half. And the Anteaters led by as many as 5 points, 87-82, after guard Rod Palmer sank back-to-back 3-pointers with 5:29 left. Then Carter took over.
Palmer finished with a career-high 27 points and forward Mike Labat scored a career-high 21. Guard Kevin Floyd scored 17.
"I'm sick of giving away wins," Floyd said. "They're too damn hard to get to be giving away."
Irvine Coach Bill Mulligan found just one positive: "I've attained a status in life where I need some humility. I've been too arrogant for too long."