By Marvin Luu
Journeying away from the Bren Events Center over the holiday break, the UCI women’s basketball team (3-11) was met with a harrowing five game skid that began on December 16 in Los Angeles and ended on January 3 in Bakersfield. With a stagnant offense that has been lacking in aggression and consistency, issues in which head coach Doug Oliver has stressed throughout this young season, the ‘Eaters have been outscored by 20-point margins in their last four losses. UCI has continued to struggle on the road and are now 1-7 in away games.
Senior guard Raelyn Cheung-Sutton still managed to carry the ‘Eaters as their primary ball distributor by dishing out 24 dimes in the past few contests. The San Francisco native has racked up 82 total assists on the season while averaging 5.9 a night. Cheung-Sutton is currently ranked 17th in the nation in assists.
UCI’s reserves have also had their moments with sophomore forward Jenny Dee and sophomore guard Teirra Hicks posting nine points apiece on 3-5 and 3-7 shooting respectively against the Bruins. Against Sacramento State, sophomore forward Chloe Kellum busted into the scene, reaching a new career high in the fine tune of 16 points.
At the legendary Pauley Pavilion, No. 19 UCLA (10-3) were the first to rout the ‘Eaters, 83-48. The Bruins dismantled the ‘Eaters offensively, shooting 46.3% on the floor while holding UCI to just 28.1%. The ‘Eaters were simply punished in the paint, allowing the Bruins to outscore them 42-10 in the key while also losing the rebounding battle by a 29-point margin.
Four days later, UCI bounced back and showed some aggressiveness in a 79-58 losing effort against San Jose State (4-9) that was not evident against the Bruins. Cheung-Sutton garnered nine dimes and combined with junior forward Mokun Fajemisin to lead the way with 20 points. In terms of rebounding, UCI responded by crashing the clash and clenching a total of 40 boards — two short of tying with San Jose State.
Freshman forward Tayla Jackson set a personal season and career-high with 11 boards of her own. Despite the push, the ‘Eaters’ shooting woes still went unanswered and would go on to cost them the game. In the third quarter, the ‘Eaters went cold as the Spartans cruised on into a 12-4 run that would draw out their seven point lead at the half up to 19 by the end of the quarter. The ‘Eaters would go on to cut the lead down to 14, but did not have enough fire power to compensate for their early dry streak.
Things did not look any prettier at Sacramento State (4-8) and USC (12-2). On December 22, the ‘Eaters were pummeled by the Sacramento State Hornets by a whopping 48 point margin, 126-78. With the loss, the ‘Eaters had broken an unsettling UCI school record for most points conceded which was previously set 13 years ago at 114; it was also the first time that a UCI team has allowed their opponent to reach 100 points since 2011. While UCI had shot quite well at 50% from the floor, they had managed to turnover the ball a season-high 38 times which the Hornets had capitalized on by converting 55 points off of the ‘Eaters’ errors.
Six days later, UCI dropped a competitive one against a relentless USC team, 75-56. The ‘Eaters had challenged the Trojans early in the game, winning the first quarter at 16-13 with Cheung-Sutton and Kellum racking up half of the team’s points. At the end of the half, the ‘Eaters were only trailing by one. However, as was the case at San Jose, a dry spell rolled in and the Trojans won the offensive tug of war in the third, outpacing UCI in the paint, 34-22. Without an answer for Trojans reserve guard Courtney Jaco, who posted a career-high 21 points to lead all players, the ‘Eaters dropped their fifth consecutive in Los Angeles, fourth on the road.
For the ‘Eaters, the grueling road trip and final non-conference game of the season came to a head at the Icardo Center in Bakersfield on January 3rd where they were toppled by the Roadrunners (3-12), 65-39. Although Cheung-Sutton scored in double digits for the second consecutive game with 10 points and picked the ball on three occasions while junior guard Irene Chavez added eight points on 3-11 shooting, the ‘Eaters were unable to match the Roadrunners’ offensive flurry.
Bakersfield outpowered UCI on the offensive, routing the ‘Eaters in the first quarter, 21-7, and winning the last two quarters of the game all while shooting a little over 40 percent from the floor. With only a sporadic surge in the second period of play, the ‘Eaters found themselves buried behind a 26-point deficit after the sounding of the final buzzer.
Having lost their last six games, five on the road, the ‘Eaters will look to pick up some momentum before opening Conference play this Thursday in Riverside.