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UCI Makes Headway in Loss : College basketball: Anteaters show some encouraging signs despite falling to USC, 82-79.


LOS ANGELES — UC Irvine didn't make the basket it needed to beat USC Saturday afternoon in an 82-79 loss, but the Anteaters did make a few statements that bode well for the rest of the season:

* They went 13 minutes during the first half without scoring from the outside, but managed to hang with the Trojans, anyway, and turned a 4-4 tie into a 34-33 lead in the process.

* They outrebounded USC, 35-27, and held the Trojans--who had 24 offensive rebounds against UNLV recently--to nine rebounds under their own basket.

* Their pressure defense forced 18 turnovers and helped them rally from a six-point deficit with 2 minutes 48 seconds remaining, positioning Kevin Simmons to take a shot that could have given them the lead with six seconds to play.

Simmons missed a leaning, baseline eight-footer, fouled out of the game trying to grab the rebound and USC's Stais Boseman hit two free throws for the victory in front of 2,931 at the Sports Arena.

"We had a chance and had we taken care of some things early on, then the game wouldn't have been dependent on that play," Irvine Coach Rod Baker said. "We had opportunities to take control of the game, but we let them slip through our fingers. We created turnovers, but didn't turn them into baskets."

Baker insists there is no such thing as a good loss--"losing only teaches you how to lose," he says--but Simmons, who had a game-high 23 points and 11 rebounds, isn't so sure.

"I think we can build off this," he said. "We didn't shoot free throws very well and we didn't shoot outside very well, we just didn't play like we're capable of playing, but we were still there at the end."

The Trojans (5-1) led, 78-72, until point guard Raimonds Miglinieks, who had nine assists, fired a pass to freshman Clay McKnight, who buried a three-pointer. USC forward Jaha Wilson, who along with guard Brandon Martin scored a team-high 15 points, missed a 12-foot jumper and Irvine's Shaun Battle grabbed the rebound.

Sophomore guard Brian Keefe scored on a driving layup and was fouled with 1:10 remaining. He missed the free throw and center Paul Foster fouled out trying to get the rebound, but the Anteaters were back, trailing by one.

"That six-point lead was about to look insurmountable, but all of sudden, it was a game again," Baker said. "That was a plus."

Reserve center David Crouse made two free throws to put USC ahead, 80-77, but Michael Tate scored on a layup with 54 seconds remaining and Simmons pulled down a rebound after Martin missed a driving layup to set up Irvine's final offensive play.

"UC Irvine is a very good team," USC Coach Charlie Parker said. "They're very well-coached and have excellent players, a number of whom could play in our conference."

Parker probably wasn't talking about Tate, the 6-foot-4 forward who played at nearby Fremont High, or Foster, but they both came up big Saturday.

Tate had 10 points and eight rebounds and Foster made six of eight shots from the floor, finishing with 14 points and seven rebounds.

Clearly, the Anteaters (3-2) are doing some things this season that they have failed to do in seasons past--score inside, rebound well and play pressure defense--and all of that will benefit them when Big West play begins Jan. 2.

"The big guys are doing a good job and we are playing pretty good defense," Miglinieks said. "It seems like we're doing everything OK. Today, all our little mistakes just kind of added up."

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