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UNIVERSITY BEAT

Anteaters Find Ways to Win

January 15, 2002|From Staff Reports

UC Irvine will gladly take all its nail-biting victories, but it would also like a few more easy wins.

After Jerry Green won the Anteaters' showdown last Thursday at Utah State with a buzzer-beating shot, Irvine got a rare breather Saturday with its 92-54 drubbing of Idaho to build a 11/2-game lead in the Big West Conference.

The Anteaters (12-4, 5-0) have won eight games decided by 10 points or fewer this season after winning 15 games by five points or fewer in their record-breaking 25-5 season last year.

It gives fifth-year Coach Pat Douglass a fair share of confidence in tight games. But he'd rather not have every game come down to the end.

"Well, it'll allow me to stay in this profession a little bit longer," Douglass said during the Big West's midseason conference call. "Our kids will focus when their backs are against the wall."

Irvine, the defending Big West regular-season champion, maintained its focus throughout on Saturday. The Anteaters shot 56% in the first half in taking a 46-23 lead, then blitzed Idaho in the second half by making 17 of 22 field-goal attempts.

The Anteaters continue to get production from players other than Green. Guard Mike Hood made seven of nine three-point baskets and scored a career-high 25 points against the Vandals.

"We have five kids who can shoot the ball," Douglass said. "I think it's just a matter of Jerry learning to trust the other guys more. There's times when he tries to take on too much."

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Brian Quinn began his new job as athletic director at Cal State Fullerton on Monday and said it was "good to be back in the wars" of college athletics. He succeeded John Easterbrook, who retired.

Quinn, 60, was athletic director at Loyola Marymount from 1985-98 and most recently worked in Loyola's planned giving department.

"It's great to be back working in intercollegiate athletics directly, to be working with students and educating young people," Quinn said.

Quinn said he is optimistic that Fullerton's struggling men's and women's basketball programs will improve. The Titan men have been on NCAA probation for infractions that date to 1993 and only recently had sanctions lifted that prevented them from recruiting junior college players.

"I have confidence in both teams, and once they get up and running then you can start looking downstream at a new [arena]," he said.

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The Fullerton men's basketball team will try to end a six-game losing streak on Thursday when it plays Idaho State in a Big West game at Fullerton. Utah State visits Saturday.

The Titans are 3-11 overall and 0-5 in the Big West, their worst start in conference play since 1987-88 when they started 0-7.

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Building on the momentum of a strong finish to the 2001 men's volleyball season, UC Irvine started 2002 with victories over Pepperdine and USC in its Wyndham West Coast Challenge tournament last weekend.

After a three-game loss to UCLA Friday, the Anteaters defeated Pepperdine in five games Saturday and came back later in the day to defeat the Trojans in four.

The victories were key for Irvine, which has its eye on becoming a top-five team this season. The Anteaters have steadily improved in Coach Charlie Brande's six seasons and appear ready for a major breakthrough.

"When I first got here, I came here with great hopes," said Brande, whose team went 13-13 last season. "The first time I went through the league [Mountain Pacific Sports Federation], I thought that we could play forever and not beat these teams.

"Things are different now. Our experience level is so much higher and our bench is the deepest we've ever had."

Middle blocker Erick Helenihi, a 6-foot-8 senior, is the key returning player for the Anteaters. Brande said his depth has improved so much that he moved Helenihi to left side hitter to get 6-7 sophomore Kyle Weichert in the middle and make Irvine a bigger team.

All of Irvine's starters, except setter David Kniffin, are 6-6 or taller.

Much of that can be attributed to improvements in recruiting. Brande said keeping some of Orange County's top players at home was a key and credits assistant coach Jason Bilbruck with delivering them.

Of the 22 players on the roster, 14 are from either San Diego or Orange County.

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Preseason No. 1 and two-time defending NCAA champion UCLA dropped a spot in the latest national poll after losing to second-ranked Georgia, 197.900-196.875, in a dual meet Sunday at Athens, Ga.

UCLA sophomore Jamie Dantzscher scored a 10 on the vault, the first of her college career. Dantzscher also won the uneven bars routine.

Stephanie Rigamat and Mary-Frances Monroe of UCLA were named to the Soccer Buzz magazine All-America second team. UCLA senior defender Krista Boling and Pepperdine junior defender Susan Palmer were honorable-mention selections.... Ashcon Madjid, a 6-4, 290-pound offensive lineman, has transferred from Cal State Northridge to Tulsa to continue playing football. Northridge eliminated its football program in November.

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Staff writers Eric Stephens, Gary Klein and Bob Rohwer contributed to this notebook.

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