The favored No. 3 UC Irvine women’s basketball team saw their season come to an end after falling to No. 6 UC Santa Barbara at home in a tough 61-51 loss in the first round of the Big West Tournament. UCI finished their season at 13-17.
Freshman Methlyn Onogomuho’s double-double (14 points and 10 rebounds) effort was not enough to carry the team as UCI struggled to create easy baskets.
Senior Kassandra McCalister finished her Anteater career with a gutsy performance, coming off the bench with a broken foot, and junior Anete Klintsone played a step slower than usual due to multiple ailments.
“We had trouble making baskets and we were a little bit depleted. We only had four [healthy] players in practice on Sunday and five in practice on Saturday,” head coach Molly Goodenbauer said.
“Santa Barbara did a nice job defending and they were able to hit some shots.”
The Anteaters dominated in the opening five minutes of the game, pulling off a strong 8-0 run. But the spree ended from there. Three minutes later, UCSB finally snuck in a basket with a layup after a steal off of junior Pernilla Hanson.
UCI managed to maintain an eight point lead until the Gauchos burst to an 11-6 run to narrow the gap 26-24 to finish the half.The Gauchos took UCI’s lead with 17:45 on the clock in the second half after a jump shot by Melissa Zornig to make it 29-28. The two teams exchanged baskets until UCSB went on a 6-0 run to lead 39-33.
UCI responded with a 9-2 run capped by Onogomuho’s layup plus the foul to lead 42-41. Unfortunately UCI’s lead was short-lived after their defense failed to contain Sweets Underwood as she made a layup to retake the lead. UCI saw the deficit grow after UCSB made a jumper to take a 50-46 lead with 2:48 left in the game. Irvine never came close to retaking the lead as UCSB came away with the victory.
UCSB went on to win the Big West Championship on Saturday afternoon. The Anteaters ended their season for the seventh consecutive season with an opening round loss in the conference tournament.