E. Washington: 80
UC Irvine: 60
It was a tale of two halves for the UC Irvine women’s basketball team as they opened up their season against non-conference opponent Eastern Washington on Monday, Nov. 13 at the Bren Events Center.
After coming out strong in the first half and staying with the Eagles throughout the first 20 minutes of the game, Irvine was hammered inside in the second half and fell to Eastern Washington with a final score of 80-60.
Energized by the start of a new season and playing on their home court, UCI came out strong right from the beginning of the game. Aided by a quick lay-up and three-pointer by junior guard Annie Mai, UCI took the early lead and showed the bigger Eagles that they were ready to play.
The game went back and forth from there, with the teams trading baskets and adjusting to each other’s game plans. The Anteaters relied heavily on good, solid defense, which benefited greatly by the inside play of junior forward Stephanie Duda. In the first half alone, Duda recorded nine rebounds, helping to limit the second-chance opportunities of the Eagles.
Despite giving up almost four inches to the opposing players, Duda used her body well and created space inside by boxing out consistently. This was needed as both teams came out extremely cold in the first half, with Eastern Washington shooting a frigid 29.4 percent from the field and UCI not doing much better at 37.5 percent.
Sophomore forward Kelly Cochran was also strong for the Anteaters, continually hitting jump shots over the outstretched arms of the Eagle defense. The game was tied five times in the first half, with the lead never exceeding five points.
It ended at 33-30 after Eastern Washington’s Leah Gonnella buried a three-point basket from the wing in the closing seconds to give the Eagles the lead heading into the locker room.
Coming out in the second half, UCI looked to continue its tough play and tried to regain the lead. Unfortunately, it seemed like they left their grit and determination in the locker room.
Using a 15-3 run right from the start of the second half, Eastern Washington ran out to a 48-35 lead and never relinquished it. Behind the strong inside play of Sydney Benson and Katy Baker, who totaled 11 and nine rebounds, respectively, the Eagles pounded UCI on the glass, accumulating an overall rebounding advantage of 51-37 by the end of the game.
‘We didn’t box out, plain and simple,’ said a visibly frustrated Coach Molly Tuter after the game. ‘We gave them way too many rebounds and when we weren’t doing that, we were fouling. Hard to win a game when you do that.’
If the rebounding wasn’t bad enough, the frequent fouling and the foul shooting, did not benefit the Anteaters either.
Eastern Washington’s guards seemed to simply have a free pass down the lane in the second half, and they drove around the UCI defenders time after time.
This led to multiple reach-in fouls and left the UCI forwards to choose between rotating over to help or staying with their defensive assignments. When UCI was able to draw their own fouls on the offensive end, they did not help themselves, shooting a poor 13-21 from the charity stripe, a dismal 61.9 percent.
‘We played well in the first-half but we have to learn that the game is 40 minutes long, not just 20,’ Cochran said. ‘We have to keep up the intensity throughout and make up our minds to box out consistently. We’ll pull it together.’
Overall, it was not the start that the team was looking for, but there were a few bright spots on which to build.
Duda continued her tenacity on the boards and ended the game with a double-double, totaling 13 points and 16 rebounds. Cochran led the team in scoring with 16 points on 7-13 shooting in 31 minutes of action.
Freshman guard Keyonna Johnson also played well, forcing a turnover and creating havoc with her defense in limited action. While the loss begins the season on a bad note, the team has the tools to improve and will need to learn from this first game. The women’s team will host Nebraska on Nov. 24.