In her last home game in the Bren Events Center, senior center Ashley Biggins knew she had to come up big.
Following an upset over Idaho two nights earlier, Biggins knew that she once again had to play well to get the UC Irvine Women’s Basketball team closer to earning a trip to the Big West Conference tournament.
After Biggins’ and the rest of the Anteaters’ performances against Utah State on Feb. 26, now the rest of the Big West Conference knows that UCI is a legitimate contender, as they defeated the Aggies 81-74 to move into sole possession of seventh place in conference standings.
Biggins pulled down seven rebounds to go with 18 points, two points shy of the career high she set against Idaho on Feb. 24. She said that she is not surprised with the recent success of the team and that she expected the Anteaters to make it into the conference tournament that they were shut out of last season.
‘It may have started off a little rocky in the beginning, but I knew in our hearts, in our work ethnic, we all knew we were going to go,’ Biggins said. ‘There wasn’t a doubt in my mind that we wouldn’t make it to tournament. I’m not going out my senior year not making it … we’re going to do whatever it takes.’
Interim Head Coach Molly Tuter praised Biggins.
‘Ashley’s awesome,’ Tuter said. ‘I get choked up just talking about her.’
In a game that featured nine ties and 10 lead changes, the Anteaters showed grit and determination, unwilling to relinquish the game to Utah State (14-12, 9-8 Big West) despite their post play.
The Aggies went up 43-39 with 16 minutes left in the game before UCI (6-19, 5-11 Big West) went on a 10-2 run to retake the lead. The Anteaters went up for good at 61-60 with seven minutes to go when Biggins posted up in the paint, turned to her left and sank an eight-foot hook shot.
‘We rebounded when it mattered, we boxed out when it mattered,’ Tuter said. ‘We got the job done.’
Junior guard Melissa Jacob agreed.
‘Our team pulled together and we were able to pull together, play harder and do what we needed to do to get the win,’ said Jacob.
Biggins was among three Anteaters who scored in double figures. Jacob had a game-high 24 points, while sophomore guard Angie Ned provided spark with 19 points and four steals. Junior forward Lauren Yadon led UCI in rebounds with eight.
Utah State was led by freshman guard Taylor Richards who poured in 20 points.
Tuter said that the team’s energy has sparked them to these recent victories and that the team will focus on the same fundamentals going into next week’s road games.
‘There’s not a big secret to our success, our recent success, except for the fact that we’re out working people now and we understand [that] every rebound matters, every game matters,’ Tuter said. ‘I don’t think anybody expected much out of us at all and I think we’re giving people a run for their money now.’
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