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UC Irvine Defeats Tenacious Loyola

Basketball: Rebuilding Lions give Anteaters all they can handle before falling, 62-57.

November 22, 2000|PAUL McLEOD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

As Steve Aggers, first-year men's basketball coach at Loyola Marymount so vehemently pointed out Tuesday night, these are not the same meek Lions that managed just two wins last season, both against non-Division I teams.

And if Loyola Marymount continues to play the way it did in its gutsy 62-57 loss to UC Irvine Tuesday at the Bren Center, well, let Aggers, a 26-year veteran who has taken on his fourth major rebuilding job, tell it.

Infuriated by a report in The Times on Tuesday suggesting that the Lions should consider moving to a lower level, Aggers jumped up on a soap box in the Bren Center after the game.

"It was a cheap shot," he said. "This is a whole new year. There are only two kids on this team from last year. Once we get it down, we will be all right."

Loyola's hard work ethic was not lost on Irvine. The Lions, for instance, held Ben Jones, who scored 22 points in a 71-47 victory over Howard, to five shots and five points.

"They are much improved," Anteater Coach Pat Douglass said. "Coach Aggers has them playing hard. They're probably going to be one of the most improved teams in Southern California.

Irvine isn't doing badly either.

The Anteaters (2-0) are off to their best start since the 1995-96 campaign when, coincidentally, Irvine had its last winning season.

"Obviously, we're further along than we were a year ago at this time, and definitely ahead of where we were three weeks ago," senior guard Sean Jackson said. "Now it's a matter of dotting all the I's and crossing all the Ts and trying to be perfect."

Despite making only 22 of 57 field-goal attempts in the game, Loyola was still in contention, trailing, 56-52, with 52 seconds left after a three-point basket by Eurskine Robinson.

Last season, when the Lions (1-1) were 2-26, they might have folded, Irvine coaches and players said after the game. Instead, it took four free throws from guard Jerry Green, and a pair from senior Malachi Edmond to put Loyola away.

"I think they are better athletically than we are," said Irvine reserve center J.R. Christ, who turned in a fine defensive effort in 14 minutes of work. "But experience-wise, we had the upper hand."

The Anteaters were in position to put the game away early. Irvine held a 31-21 halftime lead, thanks in part to Loyola's 8-for-29 shooting from the floor. But at the start of the second half, Loyola got a whirling turn-around basket from center Pablo Machado and a three-pointer from USC transfer Greg Lakey.

A livid Douglass signaled for a timeout.

"When you have a 10-point halftime lead, you don't want to let a team get back in the game," Jackson said. "We came out and didn't do that. They switched things up on us defensively, and we didn't adjust to it."

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