The Lady Anteaters started their season off with a victory, defeating Concordia, 84-71, in their exhibition game on Thursday night.
The first half of the game looked bright for UC Irvine, as junior Kiara Belen shot five for five from the field. Belen led the team with 18 points, most of them coming from fast-break opportunities. Mikah Maly-Karros added a double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds.
“This year, we’re doing a lot better at running our lanes and just seeing what’s open and not worrying about setting up the offense,” Belen said. “We’re a really fast team and it’s important to just score and get that lay-up.”
Even though UCI consistently led throughout the game, their largest lead was only by nine points. On a number of possessions, UCI’s defense forced the Eagles to use most of the shot clock, as they struggled to find an open shot.
Both teams allowed several second-chance shots, as UCI recorded 18 offensive rebounds, while Concordia notched 19.
“That’s something [Concordia] ought to be able to do consistently with the players that [they] have,” Head Coach Molly Goodenbour said.
During the second half, the Anteaters decided to change things up and play zone defense.
“We tried some different looks by playing through the zone,” Goodenbour said. “I liked that we got the first game out of the way and got some of the kinks out of the way.”
UCI led throughout the first half and most of the second half, but with 9 minutes, 15 seconds left in the game, the Eagles tied the score at 62. Less than a minute later, a Concordia player completed a three-point play, taking their first lead of the game.
With less than eight minutes left in the game, UCI trailed by five points. After a UCI timeout with 3:40 left in the game, the Anteaters picked up the pace and regained the lead again. From that point on, the Anteaters never looked back, winning the contest by 13 points. Five of the nine active players scored double digits.
“We have some solid shooters, and some solid drivers, it’s going to be really hard to cover all aspects of our game and I think that’s what we’re going to use to our advantage,” Belen said “We can share the load now … teams are really going to have to figure out what they’re going to do.”
Goodenbour used the exhibition to experiment with different things, as she tried to figure out what areas needed improvement.
“It was a good learning experience, [I] sat back and just let them play,” Coach Goodenbour said. “I let them play through things so I could get a sense of what our real strengths and weaknesses are.”
Before taking on the University of Texas, El Paso in their season opener, the Anteaters will host the University of Redlands in their final exhibition game at home on Nov. 5.