The UC Irvine women’s basketball team ended its regular season with a tough loss to Long Beach State 77-63 at the Bren Events Center on Saturday, March 3. The Anteaters’ untimely turnovers late in the second half allowed for the 49ers to score on numerous opportunities as they secured a victory in the final game of the season.
The Anteaters started off the game with good team defense and exceptional rebounding led by junior forward Stephanie Duda. Duda would collect 10 of her game-high 16 rebounds in the first half as she battled against Long Beach’s tall front court.
With Duda taking care of the glass, senior guard Angie Ned led the offensive attack scoring 17 points in the opening half, going two for three from three-point land. It would be Ned’s final home game and she came out ready to play.
‘Angie is awesome, she’s fantastic,’ said Head Coach Molly Tuter. ‘She’s improved herself from freshman to senior year more than probably anyone else I’ve ever been around. She turned herself into a really good basketball player.’
Ned’s energy and terrific play were contagious as the Anteaters took the lead heading into halftime, 35-32.
The Anteaters would open the second half hitting two three-pointers out of their first three baskets. With the tempo and momentum going their way, the Anteaters seemed poised to secure a win on their final home game of the season.
However, with nine minutes remaining in the game, the 49ers would stage a comeback and go on a giant run. Long Beach continuously pressed the Anteaters after every basket and gained control of the tempo.
‘We need to get smarter,’ Tuter said. ‘We have to understand, they killed us three of four times on transition. We have to recognize that and we didn’t tonight.’
The Anteaters only forced 13 turnovers on the 49ers for the night with just three coming in the second half. UCI finished the game with 23 turnovers, 13 in the second half, with many being nothing more than unforced errors.
‘We had some turnovers and quick shots that led to transition opportunities for them in which they scored off fast-break lay-ups’ Ned said. ‘That pretty much gave them the lead and momentum.’
The team couldn’t seem to find an offensive rhythm in the second period as its offense was stagnant. Long Beach switched in and out of a zone defense, which seemed to have bothered the Anteaters’ offense.
‘We just got to learn from what we did,’ said junior guard Annie Mai. ‘It’s all mental now. We know we can beat them. We just had some mental lapses out there.’
Led by sophomore guard Karina Figueroa, Long Beach outscored the Anteaters 28-8 to end the game. After going for nine points in the first half, Figueroa would put the 49ers on her back and score 20 of her game-high 29 points in the final half.
‘It was a matter of four or five possessions tonight,’ Tuter said. ‘We have to recognize what they’re doing. We have to take it personal. You take these things personal and learn to get better from it.’
Ned finished the game with a team-high 27 points and seven rebounds. Duda would tally a double-double finishing with 12 points and 16 rebounds.
Junior guard Miranda Forry and freshman guard Keyonna Johnson scored 10 and seven points, respectively.
UCI will seek revenge as both squads will meet again in the opening round of the Big West Tournament at the Anaheim Convention Center on March 7.
‘I’m really eager to play them again. You’ll never know what will happen this time around,’ Ned said. ‘I’m going to go out there and play hard. We’re going to play hard.’