The UC Irvine women’s basketball team fell to Cal State Bakersfield 85-63 in their home opener Tuesday night.
Coming from a gutsy comeback and overtime win against the University of Texas, El Paso on the road, the Anteaters were looking to continue their momentum and defeat a team they beat last year 74-61.
With a couple of blocks by sophomore center Kim Barnes and some hot three-point shooting by junior guard Mary Has, UCI came out strong. A three-pointer by senior guard Kirian Ishizaki put the ‘Eaters up 13 points at the 4:27 minute mark in the first half. However, the Roadrunners of Bakersfield came charging back, squeezing out a 34-33 lead at halftime.
Seven straight points by Bakersfield opened the second half with an assist from a sloppy play by UCI. The Anteaters were able to keep it within five at the 15:16 mark, but the Roadrunners pulled away with an 18-2 run, stretching the lead to 21 with 9:15 remaining in the game.
“We lost our focus; we lost a great deal of our intensity,” said Head Coach Molly Goodenbour. “I don’t think our concentration was real good, and I don’t think we played very well at all for about 30 minutes of that game.”
Christina Kepenikian led the senior-laden Bakersfield team with 24 points, while Phynique Allen added 17 points and three steals.
Has had a career high 20 points and three blocks to lead UCI, while Ishizaki shot 6-11 from the field for 14 points. Freshmen Kiara Belen came off the bench to add 12 points and a team high of seven rebounds. However, UCI’s leading scorer Rebecca Maessen, who had averaged 19 points in the first two games of the season, had an off-night, with 1-11 from the field for 9 points. UCI fell to 1-2 while CSUB improved to 2-1.
“We all have to believe we’re going to win every game,” Has said. “The mentality has to be there if we are going to win. We have got to get mentally tougher.”
The Anteaters are dealing with the absence of star forward Kelly Cochran due to injury, and are also missing two junior transfers from Serbia, Miljana Cejic and Jovana Petrovic. This leaves the team with a short-handed bench and an essential rotation of only six players.
“[Cejic and Petrovic] are dealing with some amateurism issues with the NCAA clearinghouse right now,” Goodenbour said. “They’ll help add to our depth … they have nice size, both over six-feet tall.”
UCI’s early non-conference scheduling does not help matters either. Six of the first seven games on the schedule are away from the Bren Events Center. And with an entirely new coaching staff in place this year, the Anteaters will take time to get on the same page and apply what they do in practice to the real games.
“I hope we get better each day,” Goodenbour said. “But right now, we’re certainly a work in progress … we have got to improve in all aspects of the game.”
The ‘Eaters play Sacremento State next on the road on Wednesday.