By: Marvin Luu
With pictures, posters, flowers and a victory, there was no better ending for UCI seniors, Methlyn Onogomuho and Madison McKenney, who helped the UCI Women’s Basketball team (8-23, 5-11) close out their last conference game at the Bren Events Center on Saturday afternoon against UC Davis (13-15, 8-8), 71-62.
Onogomuho played the entire game and contributed seven rebounds and two assists to go along with her 14 points while McKenney also had a solid game, picking up eight points, two rebounds and three assists in 26 minutes.
“I told myself [that] I wanted to perform not for myself today but for my family and especially for my team,” Onogomuho said. “I knew that this was a win that we could get so I actually feel super happy and super excited.”
Junior guard, Raelyn Cheung-Sutton erupted with yet another huge game, recording 17 points for 5-8 shooting and has clearly emerged as an efficient distributor; she would go on to dish out a game-high seven assists before the sounding of the final buzzer.
“My style of play has always been pass first,” Cheung-Sutton said. “That is what I like to do, I like to look for other people first. As a point guard, a lot of times, your energy trickles down to the others.”
The ‘Eaters started the game with a relentless effort that was sparked off of Onogomuho’s hot shooting. Behind the support of her family, Onogomuho fired up 10 points off of 5-6 shooting and grabbed four boards in the half. Thanks to the senior forward’s solid start and a nice defensive effort, the ‘Eaters went on a 15-2 run that would eventually blossom into a 10 point cushion over the Aggies, 21-11.
“Against UC Davis we want to be the aggressor, we want to spread out the floor and try to wear them down and in the first half it paid off,” head coach, Doug Oliver said. “They had a couple of unforced turnovers just because of our defensive presence [which] gave us some extra possessions.”
Despite the early push, the Aggies answered back by continuing to pound the ball deep into the paint where the ‘Eaters struggled to contain them. UCI sophomore forwards, Shereen Sutherland and Mokun Fajemisin contributed four points each, but could not stop the impressive offensive outing by Aggies junior forward, Alyson Doherty who scored 11 points in the half. Doherty would finish with a game and career-high 27 points, which came off of 8-14 shooting from within the paint and 11-15 shooting from the charity stripe.
“[UC Davis’] success came from throwing the ball inside and that is why [Doherty] made 27 points,” Oliver said. “We are undersized and so they took advantage.”
Behind a four point play by sophomore guard Irene Chavez and a pair of baskets from Onogomuho, UCI continued to battle and would be able to hold off the Aggies for the first half, 33-24.
“I thought we stayed with our game plan and [the team] really responded,” Oliver said.
UC Davis came out with much more energy in the second half and began to chase the ‘Eaters’ steady lead. The Aggies continued to go to Doherty, whose performance forced the ‘Eaters to commit 12 fouls in the half, 20 for the game. Sutherland got into foul trouble and only played a total of eight minutes in the second half. With Sutherland out, freshman forward Brittany Glassow came off the bench and took part in a huge second half surge by putting up 10 points and four rebounds in 26 minutes. Cheung-Sutton eased her way around the entire stat sheet, scoring 12 of her 17 points in the half, while grabbing two boards and finding an open teammate on three occasions.
Under Cheung-Sutton’s efficient ball handling and the collective offensive effort of Onogomuho, Sutherland, McKenny, Fajemisin, and Glassow, the ‘Eaters proved to be too much for the Aggies as Fajemisin finished the game by sinking two free throws to bring up the final score to 71-62.
“They took the lead and we came back and bounced it to a two point lead and [traded baskets] possession after possession,” coach Oliver said. “Then I thought that we were suddenly in control of the game emotionally.”
The ‘Eaters are currently the eighth seed in the Big West Conference Tournament and will meet the Aggies, who are sitting in at the fifth seed, again next Tuesday at 6 p.m. at the Titan Gym.