UCR Washes UCI Away

Despite junior guard Jade Smith-Williams dropping a game-high 31 points on Thursday night, the UCI women’s basketball team (8-18, 5-8) lost their fourth consecutive game, 80-66, sinking them to seventh place in the Big West Conference.

The third-place UC Riverside Highlanders (12-14, 9-4), who UCI lost to earlier this year as well, stole the lead from the ’Eaters five and a half minutes into the game and hardly looked back.

Despite several Anteater attempts to tie the game, the Highlanders reclaimed the momentum time and again through consistent shooting and strong defensive play. Head Coach Molly Goodenbour was also critical of UCI’s play.

“I didn’t think we played very well, I thought our defense was atrocious and I thought that offensively we were inconsistent,” Goodenbour said.

The Lady Anteaters almost caught the Highlanders with 4:50 left on the clock as the score showed 61-62, but Alyssa Morris of Riverside responded with a three pointer that all but sealed UCI’s fate.

It was a rough night for the ’Eaters supporting cast as the UCI bench only recorded two points in 39 minutes and starting guard Keyonna Johnson was unable to score in 28 minutes on the floor.

The usual superstar Mikah Maly-Karros still earned herself a double-double with 16 points and 13 rebounds, but she lacked her usual dominant presence on the court.

“When we rely on her we need her to step up and play the way she is able to,” Goodenbour said.

The only Anteater who had an outstanding night, Jade Smith-Williams, went 4-10 from behind the arc and 11-14 from the charity stripe.

“I thought Jade was very aggressive … it would have been nice if her teammates were on the same page,” Coach Goodenbour said.

During their current four-game slide, Irvine lost one in overtime, one on a buzzer beater, and two in the final minutes.

“It just came down to making plays in the end, which has been the story of our lives for this whole season. We haven’t been able to pull it out at the end of the game,” Smith-Williams said.

With three games left in the season, it is crucial that UCI break out of their current slump and get some wins. While it seems their Big West Tournament bid is still not at risk, the Lady Anteaters continue to plunge lower and lower in the standings.

As the situation stands right now, UCI would be playing UCSB in their first game of the tournament and most likely moving on to first seed Cal Poly in the second round if they won. After a first round knockout last year, the Lady ’Eaters will be hungry to advance further in the Big West Conference Tournament this year. In addition to the honors of being the Big West Champion, the victor earns a spot in the Division 1 NCAA Tournament. A lot is at stake for the Lady ’Eaters in these next few weeks. UCI will next be facing Cal State Northridge (4-19, 2-9) at the Matadome on Saturday. Tip-off will be at 4:00 p.m.