SAN DIEGO — UC Irvine turned a blowout into a blow-up Thursday night, losing a 16-point lead, its poise and finally the game.
A season that swelled with promise after a victory over St. John's in New York a month ago, was deflating faster than a punctured Macy's Day parade balloon after the Anteaters lost, 81-78, against the University of San Diego in front of 1,271 in the Sports Center.
Even after a momentary glitch at the end of the first half, Irvine (3-3) was rolling along with a 14-point lead early in the second half. Then Coach Rod Baker picked up a technical complaining about an uncalled foul on a Brian Keefe drive to the basket and the Toreros (4-3) cut the lead to 10.
Four minutes later, forward Michael Tate picked up a technical after being called for charging and the lead was two, 50-48.
A minute after that, forward Shaun Battle was called for his fourth foul and he ran off the court, through a corner door and out of the building.
Assistant Mike McIlwain brought him back, but Battle fouled out a little later and then kicked over a chair and a trash can.
Sophomore Kevin Simmons had a career-high 27 points, Keefe scored 18 and Raimonds Miglinieks had 14 points and eight assists.