Ironically, while the Waves dealt with the situation quite well, it was Irvine's guards who came through in the clutch.
The first half could not have been scripted any better for the Waves. Parada picked up his third foul at the 9:45 mark; the Waves crashed the boards and remained relatively even in that category; Zuzak went scoreless; Terrance Johnson drove to the basket and drew fouls, an important step in his development. Most importantly, the array of zone defenses they employed kept the Anteaters off-balance and unable to get their big men involved in the offense.
Only one problem: Pepperdine shots weren't falling. The Waves opened the game 5-20 from the field and could not take advantage of their well-designed game plan. UCI took a 33-31 lead at the half.
In the second half, the defense remained focused, but Irvine adjusted. On several occasions, the zone kept them at bay for about 25 seconds of a possession, then a big man would cut to the basket and receive a pass for an uncontested layup. The Waves were gambling by overplaying passing lanes and fronting the big men, and it finally started to come back to haunt them.
Watching the opponent score a relatively easy basket at the end of a solid defensive effort can be demoralizing, and it seemed that the Waves had been worn down as the Anteaters took a 60-52 lead with 5:43 to play.
However, a run sparked by Jimmy Miggins and capped by a Terrance Johnson three-pointer brought the Waves even at 66 with just under two minutes left. Perhaps the comeback cost the Waves all their remaining energy, as Irvine's Mike Hood and Jeff Gloger took over the game, leading the Anteaters to an eight-point burst. A three-pointer at the buzzer by Devin Montgomery accounted for the final margin.
Miggins led the Waves with 17 points, albeit on 5-13 shooting. Montgomery finished with 15, while Johnson and Brazzle scoreed in double figures with 11 and 10, respectively.
Turner, who appears to at least be Kimble's short-term replacement in the starting lineup, played very well defensively and with tremendous energy, finishing with six points and two rebounds. Hood paced UCI with 17 points.
The absence of Kimble and Glen McGowan, who is still recovering from October arthroscopic knee surgery, caused the Waves to play an unusual defense that kept them in the game. But in the end, Irvine solved that defense and capitalized on its advantage.
The Waves continue their four-game tour of the Big West Conference this week with a Monday night contest at Long Beach State, a Wednesday battle at Cal State Fullerton, and a Saturday night date with UC Santa Barbara.