‘I’m glad someone pulled the fire alarm,’ a spokesperson for UC Irvine said after the match, ‘because this team is hot.’
The alarm went off 11:47 into the first quarter because of barbeque smoke just outside of the Bren Events Center. Apparently something besides Cal State Northridge was being burnt to a crisp.
The Anteaters earned sweat-drenched bragging rights Saturday as, running a highly aggressive offense and defense, they outmaneuvered Cal State Northridge for a four-point victory, 59-55.
The game was highly physical and occasionally resembled a wrestling match as the Anteaters (7-16, 4-6 Big West) and the Matadors (6-17, 4-7) battered each other heavily during the game. Thirteen minutes into the first half, sophomore guard Annie Mai was pushed football-style while jumping into the air to grab the ball. And on the Northridge side, junior forward Jazelle Burries had to leave the game because of a hurt left ankle.
Head Coach Molly Tuter, and the UCI home crowd, felt that the Anteater team was doled an unfair amount of fouls.
‘I thought the foul situation was pretty ridiculous today,’ Tuter said. ‘I wasn’t sure what … was going to be called at any given time.’
Regardless of referee troubles, Tuter was pleased with her team’s defensive performance, citing the 26 Matador turnovers.
‘Defensively … it’s not exactly what I want it to be yet, but it’s getting closer,’ Tuter said. ‘We’re causing a lot of havoc at times.’
Senior guard Melissa Jacob played a well-coordinated game from the front of the key, particularly in the first quarter, boldly organizing her team’s offensive sets.
Jacob stated that her mindset involved the need to ‘play together, get everybody in rhythm and jump on Northridge. [The Matadors] were a very good team, but from the last time we played them I thought that we could jump on them and get a lead.’
The Anteater jump-on-Northridge strategy culminated in a first-half 27-22 lead that the Anteaters maintained for most of the game and held onto at the end. This contrasted sharply with the previous game that UCI played against CSUN, a 57-47 loss for the Anteaters.
‘We came in here and we were really confident,’ Ishizaki said. ‘Our team was having great chemistry. We weren’t hitting our free throws. Yeah, we struggled on that, but we came back and we executed our offense and it really worked around.’
The Anteaters shot 53.8 percent from the free-throw line during the game.
‘We need to do a better job of executing our free throws,’ Tuter said. ‘But we did a pretty good job executing the rest of our game plan.’
The Anteater free-throw performance improved vastly during the last minutes of the game as, desperate for possession, the Matador team pursued a foul-and-strike strategy. UCI’s team succeeded in seven out of nine free-throw attempts during the last three minutes.
The Anteater performance was very well-rounded. Every player who played scored at least four points, and each participated actively in UCI’s strong performance.
Senior guard Kimberly Martin scored two jumpers in 16 seconds during the first quarter, one of which was a deadly fade-away in a jungle of Matador players.
‘Being down there in the post, it’s pretty difficult,’ Martin said. ‘Most of the girls I face … are bigger than me, and that’s why Molly has us going into the weight room, lifting weights, getting stronger. She knows we’re going to get bumped around, and our only advantage is being more athletic.’
Forward Kelly Cochran mercilessly delivered a three-point play 15 minutes into the second half in a solid post-timeout rush.
The win completes a rare three-game winning streak for the Anteaters.
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