By: Marvin Luu
Following a staggering defensive outing against Occidental, the UC Irvine women’s basketball team turned up the intensity on Tuesday night, holding the La Verne Leopards to just 50 points in what would become a 41-point victory at the Bren Events Center.
UCI had clearly put the breaks on La Verne early on, limiting the Leopards to a game low 10 points in the second quarter and 22 at the half. In addition, the ‘Eaters picked off La Verne on eight occasions while rejecting them five times.
“I thought that there were moments where we defended at the level that was necessary,” head coach Doug Oliver said. “We improved since last week…we reacted to the ball to get out defensive rebounds to lead to offensive breaks.”
Offensively, the ‘Eaters had picked up from where they had left off last week. Once again, points were balanced and spread all across the stat sheet with four players hitting double-digit scoring while junior forward Shereen Sutherland and sophomore guard Tierra Hicks each threw in nine points as the team shot at a combined 43.2 percent from the field. UCI also dominated in the paint, outpacing La Verne by a 32-point margin while cleaning up the glass with 61 total boards.
“I was happy with Tierra [Hicks], [McKenzie] Piper, and Ari[anna] [Knox] that came in from the perimeter to come get that offensive rebound,” coach Oliver said. “We had a tendency last week and over the past year [where we would] stand around the perimeter and watch and think that our post players can be able to get rebounds [so] I thought that that was a positive sign when the perimeter crashed the offensive glass.”
Given the adjusting lineups and rotation changes during exhibition play, the ‘Eaters’ second unit came out blazing by converting more baskets than their own starters and tying the entirety of La Verne’s points at 50. Among the seven players who came off the bench, junior forward McKenzie Piper and sophomore forward Brittany Glassow racked up 11 points a piece in 17 and 18 minutes of action respectively. Piper, who had put up 13 points against Occidental, was one rebound shy of earning her first double double of the year. Sutherland also did a great job of spreading the floor, knocking down a few mid-range jumpers and putting back easy lay in on 4-7 shooting. Behind Piper, Glassow, and Sutherland, the ‘Eaters took advantage of their size and shot the ball efficiently over the smaller La Verne guards.
“I like the confidence that [the team] is playing with,” coach Oliver said. “We had a couple of post players come off some double stagger screens and shoot the 17 to 19 footer which we haven’t done in the past and I like that look. The big wings, whether it be Piper, Shereen, or even Ari[anna], give us a different dimension offensively.”
La Verne’s senior center Emily Myers broke open the first points of the game by laying in a swift shot off a dime by junior guard Faye Osborne. The basket marked the first and sole lead that the Leopards would manage to latch onto in the contest.
From the first quarter’s eight minute mark and on, the ‘Eaters would go on to route La Verne, 91-50. The onslaught began just 13 seconds after Myers’ basket with freshman forward Tayla Jackson tying the game with a quick layup of her own.
With 7:58 remaining in the opening quarter, senior guard Raelyn Cheung-Sutton gave the ‘Eaters the game-defining lead off a pair of free throws in which she had earned by going coast to coast and charging hard into the heart of the Leopard’s defense. Cheung-Sutton would join Piper and Glassow in the 11-point club on 4-6 shooting.
At the 2:44 mark, the Leopard’s failed to heed their scouting report, leaving sophomore sharpshooter Jenny Dee uncontested for a triple that would stretch the lead to nine with roughly three minutes to go in the first period.
Capped off by Cheung-Sutton’s free throws, the ‘Eaters went on a 15-6 scoring binge that would stretch out to an 18-point lead by the end of the first half.
While UCI went on an offensive clinic, it was the team’s inspired defense that had ultimately sealed the ‘Eater’s lop-sided victory. La Verne shot a game low 32.3 percent from the floor, 18.2 percent from beyond the arc as the ‘Eaters constantly pressured and double-teamed the Leopards with every opportunity they could.
By the 2:55 mark of the third quarter, the question was no longer a matter of whether or not UCI would come out with the victory, but rather by what margin. Jackson displayed her offensive prowess by putting up 7 points on 3-4 shooting. Standing in at 6’3’’, Jackson showered down two buckets in the paint early in the period before burying a three that would ring up a 63-34 lead on the Leopards.
With the game in the books, the ‘Eaters experienced contributors in Cheung-Sutton and junior forward Mokun Fajemisin took an early seat as UCI rode out the clock with a comfortable 91-50 lead.
After rounding out their two exhibition games, UCI will look to pull an upset in their regular season opener over St. Johns on Sunday before venturing out to Southern Utah for a Thursday evening matchup in Cedar City.