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San Diego State edges UC Irvine on late 3-pointer

By RICHARD J. MARCUS The Associated Press

SAN DIEGO — UC Irvine already has one road win against a Top 25 team on its resume this season, and the Anteaters came a few seconds away from adding another on Tuesday night.

Micah Parrish hit a 3-pointer from the left corner with 2.4 seconds left to give No. 24 San Diego State a 72-69 come-from-behind victory over UCI at Viejas Arena.

“I knew it was good,” Parrish said of his winning shot. “As soon as it left my hand, I looked away. I looked back and I saw it was in.”

Nathan Mensah scored 18 points to lead the Aztecs (5-2), who came into the game looking to rebound after consecutive defeats to Arizona and Arkansas at the Maui Invitational last week. The Anteaters – who beat then-No. 21 Oregon on Nov. 11 in Eugene – nearly extended the Aztecs’ skid.

“Players are just tired from the flight. It is a long trip,” Mensah said of the journey back from Hawaii and having to face a tough Anteaters squad. “It was not just a hangover from Maui but also we played good competition in UC Irvine.”

DJ Davis scored a career-high 28 points to lead the Anteaters (6-2), who had a three-game winning streak snapped. The junior guard shot 9 for 17 from the field (4 for 6 from 3-point range) for his third 20-point effort this season.

Dawson Baker added 14 points for UCI, while Dean Keeler had eight points and Devin Tillis had seven points and eight rebounds.

“It is tough to lose, especially when we felt like we were controlling the game late and needed a couple of defensive plays at the end that we didn’t make,” UCI coach Russell Turner said. “We came in here with the belief that we could win it and we performed for 37 minutes like we were the better team, so I am pleased with the confirmation that we can do that and follow up to our win against Oregon.”

San Diego State coach Brian Dutcher, whose team is a favorite to win the Mountain West Conference, came away impressed with the Anteaters.

“UC Irvine’s guards are dynamic,” Dutcher said. “You go out there to take away the three away. You can’t give him (Davis) the three.”

Davis, who was named the MVP of the Las Vegas Holiday Classic on Saturday, excelled despite the attempt by the Aztecs’ defense to limit his perimeter shots.

“He shot so far away I couldn’t believe it,” Dutcher said of Davis. “So you are going to give him angles. You are guarding him 30 feet from the hoop and he is going to get by you.”

It was a tight game throughout, especially in the second half when the lead see-sawed between the teams. SDSU maintained a small advantage throughout the first half and lead 32-30 at the break.

“The first game after Hawaii is always tough. I have been around long enough to know that. It’s super tough when you schedule a team that is 6-1 and playing really good basketball,” Dutcher said. “We made a lot of mistakes in the first half. Offensively too careless with the ball.”

With five minutes left in the first half, referee Larry Spaulding suffered an apparent leg injury and left the game, leaving just two officials to cover the floor for the remainder of the game. There was no update provided post-game on Spaulding’s injury.

“We attacked hard and got to the foul line a lot. Maybe if we had a third official out there we would have shot 100 free throws,” Dutcher said. “I feel bad for Mr. Spaulding. That was a tough injury so I am wishing him well.”

Matt Bradley had 14 points for the Aztecs and had the crucial assist to Parrish for the game-winner.

“Matt is one of the best passers on the team. I know last year he led the team in assists and he doesn’t get enough credit for that,” Parrish said. “He is a brilliant passer when he doesn’t have a shot.”

San Diego State shot 6 for 21 from behind the arc but hit several huge 3-pointers in the final minutes, which clinched the win.

“The most gratifying thing is to see that we got down four late and we didn’t fold up,” Dutcher said. “We got stops and we made big baskets. We struggled from three, but with the game on the line we made three in a row I think at the end.”

NOTABLE

UC Irvine: Coming into the game, UCI was ranked 15th nationally in bench points with a 35-point average. The Anteaters only had 16 against the Aztecs.

SAN DIEGO STATE: The win was the Aztecs’ 33rd in a row over a Big West opponent.

UP NEXT

UCI finishes a challenging week by hosting Fresno State on Saturday at 6 p.m. before playing four of its next five games on the road.

San Diego State, 38-4 in its last 42 home games, hosts Occidental on Friday.

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