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Anteaters Close Regular Season With Whimper


IRVINE — UC Irvine, employing its very best stand-around offense and watch-them-run-and-dunk defense, ended the regular season with the weakest of whimpers Saturday night.

The Anteaters' death rattle was an embarrassing 91-72 defeat to Long Beach State in front of 2,849 in the Bren Center, an uninspired and lackluster performance, even for the last-place team in a mediocre conference.

The first time these teams met this season, it took two overtime periods to decide a winner. This one was over long before halftime.

Irvine (7-19 overall and 4-14 in the Big West) often has been victim of its porous perimeter defense and the Anteaters allowed the 49ers to make five of their first six three-pointers. But that was a drop in the bucket compared to how many times Long Beach literally dropped the ball in the bucket.

Of the 49ers' first 16 two-point baskets, 15 were either layups or dunks.

The 49ers (17-9, 11-7) led, 46-22, at halftime, turned that into a 55-23 rout in the first 3 1/2 minutes of the second half and it was garbage time after that.

Long Beach will finish in either a three- or four-way tie for second in conference depending on the outcome of today's UNLV-Pacific game. But either way, the 49ers will be the third-seeded team in next week's Big West tournament at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.

The first-round seedings for the tournament were decided before the game began. Cal State Fullerton beat UC Santa Barbara on Saturday afternoon--assuring the Anteaters of finishing in the cellar--and Utah State beat Nevada. So 10th-seeded Irvine will meet No. 7 Santa Barbara at 1 p.m. Thursday and Fullerton (No. 9) will play Nevada (No. 8) at 3 p.m.

"I don't think our guys understood that it didn't matter what we did tonight," Irvine Coach Rod Baker said. "We didn't tell them. But it was kind of a nothing game. And did nothing in it."

The 49ers will take a good deal of confidence and momentum into the tournament. They have won six of their last seven and seven of the last nine. None of them were this easy, though.

"The first half was maybe our most complete 20 minutes we've played this year, in terms of just making good basketball plays," Long Beach Coach Seth Greenberg said. "I see a lot of growth in this team. Everyone understands their role and seems to be comfortable with their role. We're getting good leadership from (Brian) Camper and (Rod) Hannibal and we're playing good defense.

"But at media day (before the season) I talked about getting ready to play three days in March, so we've still got some work to do."

The last time the teams played, Long Beach scored 111 points, but it took them 50 minutes and Irvine scored 106. The 49ers reserves couldn't quite keep pace with the regulars, but there was plenty of running and gunning to go around for everybody in black and gold.

Five 49ers scored in double figures, led by forward James Cotton and center Terrance O'Kelley, who had 15 points each. Hannibal and Camper had 13 points apiece and Hannibal added eight assists.

"They were just blowing us out, getting all those layups out of the transition game," Baker said. "I don't know if they were sending guys or guys were just releasing on their own, but we were looking at the back of their numbers all night."

Five Irvine seniors were honored before their last home game, but the two who start--point guard Lloyd Mumford and center DeForrest Boyer--didn't do much to inspire their teammates.

Mumford got the so-much-for-senior-night treatment, and a seat on the bench, after an out-of-control drive in the opening minutes and played just five minutes in the first half. He finished with seven points, three assists and a turnover. Boyer also had seven points.

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