The weather was surprisingly pleasant last week at the Robert Morris tournament, which might have been the only good news for UC Irvine during its five-day stay in Moon Township, Penn.
Trying to build on their stunning success last season, the Anteaters stumbled to a sixth-place finish among eight teams, filling their time with losses to Illinois State and Kent State, while needing a second-half rally to topple unheralded Oakland (Mich.) University.
Irvine returned home searching for an early-season identity. And an easy victory, which it got Wednesday night at Loyola Marymount.
Jerry Green scored 36 points and Irvine avoided further nonconference complications with a 71-59 victory over the Lions before 1,965 at Gersten Pavilion.
Green's sizzling shooting gave the Anteaters a 39-21 halftime edge and turned the game into a stroll, Irvine's lead never shrinking to fewer than 10 points in the second half.
"We've had five games in eight days, and I think our kids were fairly resilient to come out here and play one of our best games so far," Irvine Coach Pat Douglass said.
In the process, the Anteaters (4-2) avoided their third loss and perhaps gained a minor mental lift: Last season, they didn't lose their third game until Feb. 8 and set a school record for victories with a 25-5 mark.
"We can't go on last year's team," Green said. "This is a whole different ballclub. We're all learning how to play the game together."
Green nearly outscored Loyola Marymount by himself in the first half, connecting on four three-point baskets and scoring 19 points.
Loyola Marymount (2-3) made only 17 of 62 shots (27.4%) and two of 22 three-pointers.
Andy Osborn scored 18 points for the Lions, who were seven of 28 and missed all nine of their three-point attempts in the first half.
"We've got to shoot the ball better if we're going to be a good team," Loyola Marymount Coach Steve Aggers said. "We've got to get our shooters making their open shots."