‘I feel as a team we could’ve played better tonight,’ UCI junior guard Melissa Jacob said regarding the upsetting loss against Cal State Long Beach.
The UC Irvine Women’s Basketball team had the heart and the energy, but not the baskets. The basketball just didn’t want to go in for the Anteaters, causing the disappointing defeat against the 49ers, 66-47 on Feb. 17 in the Bren Events Center.
When the starting tip-off easily went to CSULB, UCI (4-19, Big West 3-11) knew it wasn’t going to be easy. The bolting 49er Candice Wilson drove down the lane and scored twice before the Anteaters even hit a bucket in the first half.
Thanks to UCI freshman guard Annie Mai, a much-needed three-point basket brought the Anteaters within one point of the 49ers. But little did UCI know that it was the closest they’d ever get to the lead.
Throughout the first half, the Anteaters showed determination and tried to hold their ground but eventually suffocated under CSULB’s unbreakable pressure defense.
UCI tried to return the favor using their zone defense, but instead their box-outs turned into knockouts, and with each foul, the 49ers came closer and closer to a win. The Anteaters fought for many possessions, which explains the several jump balls that took place in the first half alone. Each call seemed to favor the 49ers, and there appeared to be a lack of consistency from the referees.
Nevertheless, support came in the form of UCI Interim Head Coach Molly Tuter, who continued to encourage her players until the very last shot of the first half, which was taken by sophomore guard Angie Ned.
Ned recently matched her career high against Cal State Fullerton and continued to lead the box score for the Anteaters this night with 12 points.
Ned had a rare six turnovers, but was able to come through at the end of the game.
With seven seconds left in the first, it was UCI’s ball and the last shot of the half. Finding no place to go, Ned said a prayer and threw up a fade-away jumper at the buzzer to score. Even with the shot, UCI was still down by 15 as the final score of the first half was 34-19.
Once again, the start of the second half set the tone for the rest of the game. Barely 10 seconds in, senior center Ashley Biggins was called on a foul. An unexpected steal by UCI junior forward Kimberly Martin changed the pace as she hustled to pass the ball to Ned for a great transition and basket.
Junior center Joanna Usher also contributed with her own three-point play as she made her way through traffic, coming out with a basket and a foul.
With more open looks and shots than the first half, there was still hope for UCI to make a comeback.
But the balls were not falling into the basket as nicely as UCI hoped as a majority of the shots rattled in and out of the basket. Turnover after turnover, the Anteaters were left without a basket as the second half came to an end. UCI did improve its overall shooting from the field in the second half to 32.1 percent.
Tuter said, ‘[We] did OK. We gave up too many offensive shots. We had good looks at good shots. We just need to get them in. We just didn’t make as much as we should.’
Tuter said Mai, in particular, ‘handled the basketball really well.’
Annie Mai seemed to agree with Tuter’s sentiments.
‘Long Beach got better shots. We need to improve overall in general,’ Mai said.
Jacob said, ‘[We] definitely need to box out. We got outrebounded and that’s under our control. It’s just effort. I think we just need to put this game behind us and move forward. We have very winnable games coming up and we can end conference play on a good note.’
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