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Aggies fall to a star

Big West answer to MJ sinks a long streak

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LOGAN — Jerry Green may not have been good enough for the NBA, bypassed in last summer's draft, but in the Big West Conference the Cal Irvine senior guard is the closest thing to Michael Jordan.

He, also, breaks the hearts of basketball fans in Utah.

Thursday night in Utah State's Smith Spectrum, Ronnie Ross's 3-pointer with :04.8 left gave the Aggies a rare lead and sent 9,353 attendees into their best nationally televised frenzy.

The euphoria was predictably premature, :04.8 being enough time for Green to get an inbounds pass, race upcourt and hit an arching 10-foot jumper over the hands of Chad Evans and Jeremy Vague.

League-leading Irvine made off with a 67-66 win to break USU's 31-game home winning streak, the nation's third longest, just the way Green and the Anteaters broke the Aggies' 26-game league win streak 49 weeks ago in the Bren Center.

The 'Eaters improved to 11-4, 4-0 in the BWC. USU fell to 11-3, 3-2 and awaits Long Beach State at 7 p.m. Saturday in the Spectrum.

Wooden Award candidate Green scored 31, making five of eight 3-point shots.

Ross had a career-best 20 points.

"If I score 40 and we lose, we ain't going nowhere," he said. He described his feeling when Green's shot sank as "disastrous."

"He was the last person we wanted to get the ball. I believe I guarded him well, but he hit all kinds of tough shots," Ross said.

"This is the biggest win I've had at UCI," said Green, who won back-to-back games with buzzer-beaters last season at Long Beach and Boise State to help Irvine go 25-5 and win the regular-season league championship. Green declared for the NBA draft but didn't get an agent, so he was free to return to UCI.

"The more I do them, the more confident I get," he said of deciding shots. "I had to win this game. This is my last year here; I had to go out with a win."

Green and coach Pat Douglass recalled coming to Logan and getting "spanked pretty hard on three occasions," said Douglass. "It feels great going into the locker room not feeling totally dejected because we could not compete."

Both were amazed Green got so open near the top of the key on the inbounds play. "I think Stew (Morrill, USU coach) was surprised also," said Douglass.

"Honest, I didn't think I was going to get the ball," said Green. "They had two guys double-team me. But I got the ball, wasn't nobody there, so I took it down to the end of the court to get my shot." Ross was picked by Adam Parada, and miscommunication left Brown too far away. "I knew it was going in," said Green.

Morrill took the blame. Amid the bedlam he said, "We didn't execute. We wanted to double him and not let him catch it, but we probably didn't explain it well enough in the timeout."

"We miscommunicated on the last play," said Ross. "I guess I slipped up. I don't know how it was supposed to go. I wasn't really sure."

"We were in disarray," said Evans.

With Parada making 6-for-8 to score 13, Irvine shot .509 from the field, best of any Ag opponent this season. USU shot .456 and got 14 points, nine rebounds from Desmond Penigar and 10 points from Evans, but it had only four brief leads — 2-0, 4-2, 40-39 and 66-65.

Brown had his second-lowest output of the season, nine points, defended well by UCI guards Mike Hood and Aras Baskauskas. Morrill doesn't make injury/illness excuses but said Brown was sick and missed Tuesday's practice.

"Their defense didn't cost us the game," Morrill said. "We just couldn't stop them."


E-MAIL: lham@desnews.com