By Marvin Luu
While the UC Irvine women’s basketball team (1-4) had split their first two games on the road, they were unable to weather the storm in Los Angeles, dropping both games of the LMU Tournament held in the Gersten Pavilion over the Thanksgiving holiday. The two-game skid began on Friday when Princeton (4-1) torched UCI, 83-42, to open tournament play. A day later, the ‘Eaters’ gave up 95 points to Loyola Marymount (2-4) for a 45-point loss.
UCI has continued to struggle offensively, shooting well below 30 percent in their last four contests. The offensive dry spell evidently continued during their first game in Los Angeles against a tough Princeton team that has received 11 votes from the AP Top 25 in their bid for a national ranking.
In their matchup against the Tigers, all five UCI starters had combined for just 22 points on the night, a season low for the team. Senior guard Raelyn Cheung-Sutton and junior forward McKenzie Piper scored more than half of the starters’ points, with six apiece.
Coming off the bench, sophomore forward Jenny Dee proved to be the lone bright spot for UCI, hitting half of her shots from downtown, all of which came within the last 10 minutes of the game. Dee finished the contest with nine points to lead all Anteaters.
Princeton came out of the locker room blazing, relentlessly posting 26 points to UCI’s eight in the first quarter alone. The Anteaters did not have an answer for Princeton’s aggressive front court, which pummeled in 38 of their 83 points in the paint.
The Tigers did not let up for the rest of the contest, leading at the half by 28 points before reaching a high of 41 points to hand UCI their third consecutive loss of the season.
In their second day at the Gersten Pavilion, things did not get much better for the ‘Eaters, who gave up 45 points to the Loyola Marymount Lions. However, UCI did show signs of life and competed well in the first half of the game.
Despite going scoreless for the first four minutes of the opening quarter, the ‘Eaters managed to rally back from a 10-0 Lions run by leaning on a couple of perimeter jumpers from Piper, junior forward Shereen Sutherland and sophomore forward Paulina Santana. With the influx of scoring from UCI’s forwards, the ‘Eaters cut the lead down to six points by the end of the period.
Cheung-Sutton became much more assertive in the second period, knocking down three straight baskets to keep the ‘Eaters within two possessions of tying the game.
Although junior Mokun Fajemisin finished with just seven points on 1-10 shooting, the 6’0” forward drained a huge basket from beyond the arc to cut the Lions’s lead down to two. Fajemisin was also extremely aggressive on the boards, securing 11 rebounds — six of which gave the ‘Eaters a second opportunity on the offensive end. By the half, the ‘Eaters were down by five, 35-30.
Even with the surge of energy from Cheung-Sutton and Fajemisin, the Lions responded well on the defensive end and began to shut out the ‘Eaters in the third quarter. Behind junior guard Leslie Lopez-Wood’s six points, the Lions went on a 15-point run that ballooned into a double-digit lead by the end of the quarter.
With Sutherland and Fajemisin dealing with foul trouble late in the fourth, the Lions took full advantage, going on a 34-9 point scoring spree to rout the ‘Eaters.
Having conceded 86 points in the tournament, the ‘Eaters will have to buckle down defensively and find their offensive rhythm before returning home to face Northern Arizona this Friday at the Bren Events Center.