Humbling Homestand

Nick Vu | Staff Photographer

UCI 58 UCSB 69

This season, the Lady Anteaters have feasted on home cooking, going a perfect 7-0 at home and averaging more than 70 points per game. On Jan. 13, UC Irvine looked to continue the trend against conference rival UC Santa Barbara.
But the Gauchos overcame 29 turnovers, held the ’Eaters to 32 percent shooting from the field and handed UCI a 58-69 defeat.

The Gaucho defense limited UCI’s Mikah Maly-Karros, who ranks third in the nation with 10 double-doubles. Maly-Karros fell short of her 11th double-double as she managed to score nine points and nab seven rebounds. It did not help that the junior forward picked up her second foul with 10 minutes left in the first half.

“We need to get back to Mikah being the post presence that she is capable of being. I thought her getting into foul trouble in early put her in a passive mindset,” said Head Coach Molly Goodenbour.

Once Maly-Karros vacated the game with her second foul, the Anteaters found themselves down 11 points with five minutes left in the first half. In order to stop the bleeding, Goodenbour inserted reverse guard Kassandra McCalister and forward Tayler Champion.

“The two kids that attacked for us were the two kids off the bench. Tayler Champion and Kassandra McCalister were the only two that came out with an offensive assertiveness,” Goodenbour said.

McCalister ignited an Anteaters’ run when she was fouled on a layup. The basket counted and the junior guard hit the ensuing free throw. Minutes after McCalister recorded the three-point play, Champion continued to fuel the ’Eaters. She recorded an old-fashioned three-point play and followed that by hitting two shots from beyond the arc. Champion’s nine-point run in a two-minute span gave the Anteaters a one-point lead at 22-21. The Gauchos responded by scoring the last four points in the first half.

Despite trimming an 11-point deficit to two, UCSB opened up the second half by pushing the lead to double digits. Although the Gauchos committed 29 turnovers, they were still able to attack the ’Eater defense. UCSB exposed the Anteaters’ zone and left all of 5-foot-7 Jade Smith-Williams matched up against UCSB’s center Mekia Valentine. When Valentine was not taking advantage of the mismatch, the ball was kicked out to UCSB guard, Emilie Johnson, who nailed four 3-pointers and finished the game with 20 points.

UCI 70 Cal Poly 72

The scoreboard read 72-70 in favor of Cal Poly with 5.5 seconds left in regulation. Kassandra McCalister stood at the far end baseline ready to inbound the ball. She threw it three-quarters of the length of the court, bringing shades of Christian Laettner and Grant Hill. However, Mikah Maly-Karros failed to catch the ball as it bounced off her hand.

Junior forward Kiara Belen came up with the loose ball and was immediately tripped up by Cal Poly’s Kayla Griffin. With the clock reading 2.1 seconds, Belen missed the front end of a one and one. The Anteaters were given another chance to tie the game when a Cal Poly player tipped the rebound out of bounds.

Head Coach Molly Goodenbour called a timeout and drew up one last play. Jazmyne White inbounded the ball and found a wide-open McCalister on the right side of the court. McCalister took a shot as time expired, but the ball could not find its way into the cylinder.

“We need to step up and do the things we are capable of doing. We did not shoot the ball as well as we are capable of shooting. We didn’t move the ball as well as we are capable of doing,” Goodenbour said.

The Lady Anteaters out-shot, out-rebounded and committed fewer turnovers than Cal Poly, but the Mustangs escaped with a 72-70 victory.

Maly-Karros recorded her 11th double-double of the season, scoring 28 points and bringing down 12 rebounds. Senior guard Jade Smith-Williams added 14 points.

Although Maly-Karros scored 18 points in the first half, the Lady Anteaters found themselves trailing 44-39. Cal Poly’s Rachel Clancy nailed five three-pointers, nullifying the junior forward’s offensive explosion.

After losing two straight home games, the Lady Anteaters will look to right the ship against Long Beach State and Cal State Northridge.