LONG BEACH — UC Irvine Coach Rod Baker liked the way things were going in the first half, but he didn't exactly trust them.
"You know, we were probably living on borrowed time," he said.
At the other end of Cal State Long Beach's campus gym, Coach Seth Greenberg was pacing back and forth, getting the paper cups of water that are supposed to calm him, but he kept stopping midway down the bench to shout at his players.
One 25-0 run later, it was over.
Long Beach shut out the Anteaters for 6 minutes 7 seconds and cruised to an 84-67 Big West Conference victory in front of 1,194 Monday in Long Beach.
"We played the first 10 minutes looking like we, uh, just got beat by Northridge," said Greenberg, whose team \o7 did \f7 lose to Cal State Northridge on Friday. After the victory over Irvine, the 49ers are 18-8, 10-6 in the Big West.
When the Long Beach run began, Irvine was leading by four, 31-27, with 3:40 left in the first half. Before Irvine ended it 2:27 into the second half, Long Beach led by 21, 52-31.
"I know where you're going," Baker said after a question began, "Have you ever . . . "
"No. That's a lot of points."
It started when Irvine (6-18, 4-12) left Brian Camper open outside the three-point line, and Camper calmly sank the shot. After Irvine's Keith Stewart missed on the other end, Lucious Harris hit another three in transition with Jeff Von Lutzow flailing out in a late attempt to stop him.
Then Von Lutzow threw a couple of pump fakes but had his shot blocked anyway, and Harris came down and hit another three-pointer--Long Beach's third in a row. Harris finished with 27 points. He made nine of 17 shots and four of seven three-pointers.
Next time down the court it was Lloyd Mumford's turn to miss. On the other end, Harris looked at a three, saw Mumford running at him and passed inside to Terrance O'Kelley, who hit the shot, was fouled and sank the free throw.
"When they bury four straight threes, you're not going to be in very good shape," Baker said. "And then you don't score at all, that has a way of changing the game. Like it being over."
By halftime, Long Beach had scored 16 points and a row, and the break didn't stem the tide.
"It's one of those funny things about this game," Baker said. "It's very difficult to play if you can't get the ball on the floor."
Irvine's Craig Marshall threw the second-half inbounds pass so high it ended up, after being tipped, in the opposite stands. The Anteaters kept possession, but only so they could turn it over later.
The Long Beach points kept coming. Harris had a steal and layup and another three-pointer over Stewart, who is seven inches shorter. Mike Atkinson, a 6-foot-7, 220-pound forward, drove the lane for a layup. And Irvine kept turning the ball over, contributing to its 28-turnover total, which tied the season-high set in a loss to Tulane. Irvine's 36% shooting percentage didn't help.
"Every bit of calming and adjusting and making changes, all the things we did, we just spit it against the wall," Baker said.
Long Beach buckled down after its sloppy start.
"We said, 'Let's stop thinking and start playing,' " Greenberg said.
The 49ers' got strong performances from all over the court, with the exception of center Chris Tower, who scored only three points. Forward Rod Hannibal scored 13 and added eight of his team's 23 assists. Atkinson, a reserve, scored 14 without missing a field-goal attempt and O'Kelley, another reserve, added nine without missing from the field.
Irvine suffered. Mumford tied his career high with 21 points. But Von Lutzow, who got a nosebleed after being hit with a ball during warm-ups and didn't start, scored 13 points but made only two of 12 shots. Stewart, who missed four practices and two games because of an academic eligibility issue, scored eight, making three of 11 shots. Together, Irvine's two best three-point shooters were three for 13 from beyond the line.
Nevertheless, Irvine got as close as eight, 69-61, with 3:50 left. But Hannibal got open and knocked down a three, and Irvine never trimmed the lead below nine again.
The running theme for Irvine was the San Jose State-UC Santa Barbara game, being played simultaneously, with updates announced over the public address system. Irvine and San Jose State are battling for the final spot in the Big West tournament. If San Jose State wins again and Irvine doesn't, the Spartans go.