They had fallen from grace.
A team treasured as the pride and joy of UC Irvine, the men’s basketball team had collapsed and plummeted into the bottom cellar of the Big West Conference.
And depending on who you ask, they still haven’t climbed out.
For all the success the Anteaters have experienced in the last three years, they were caught off-guard, unsuspecting, knocked flat on the floor, dazed and not knowing what had hit them.
This season, the Anteaters have encountered the most challenging, air-tight schedule since Coach Pat Douglass arrived in Southern California the spring of 1997.
And thus far, they have suffocated in it.
So with that, Douglass’ Anteaters enter this week dragging behind them a 10-14 overall record and a 5-9 mark in league play.
In a season where the Anteaters invited the current number one team in the nation, Stanford, to the Bren Center, not to mention playing Illinois-Chicago, Cal, Princeton and Pepperdine during the out-of-conference schedule, UCI has struggled to catch up to the furious pace of its opponents.
The biggest blotch on the season occurred during conference play. From Jan. 24 up until Feb. 14, the Anteaters lost seven straight games, crippling their chances of garnering a top-two seed in the conference standings while jeopardizing a spot in the Big West Conference Tournament in March.
‘When you’ve lost, sometimes you lose your confidence or your excitement to play,’ Douglass said. ‘There’s been a lot of expectations on our team and maybe we weren’t quite as good as people thought we were supposed to be.’
The seven-game losing streak was the longest since the Anteaters lost 14 straight in 1999. During the month-long rut, the Bren Center was a different place.
The air of excitement that had energized a comatose campus was sucked out of the building. Fewer and fewer fans filled the dust-collecting stands. The aura of invincibility was punctured.
Big West rivals could care less
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