By Marvin Luu
In their first meeting of the season, the UC Irvine Women’s Basketball team (4-19, 1-8) could not keep their win streak alive against UC Santa Barbara (8-15, 5-4) as the Gauchos routed the ‘Eaters, 80-62. Prior to the defeat, UCI had bested the Gauchos four straight times with the first victory dating back to 2014.
In their last meeting at the Bren, UCI had picked up a 58-46 victory behind junior guard Irene Chavez who drained five triples and led the team with 18 points.
This time around, Chavez managed to connect on just two shots from the field and four of her eight baskets from the free throw line to finish with nine.
Junior forward Mokun Fajemisin kept her team alive with 14 points to go along with her two assists to lead all ‘Eaters. Defensively, Fajemsin also rejected three shots and secured six rebounds.
“I wanted to be aggressive just because I saw open lanes,” Fajemisin said.
However, UCI collectively struggled to contain Gaucho guards Onome Jemerigbe and Coco Miller who combined for 37 points. UCI also gave up 50 points in the paints and 31 points off miscues.
UC Santa Barbara had done their work early, going on a quick 8-0 run to start the game before senior guard Raelyn Cheung-Sutton drained a triple, her lone basket for the night, to break the dry spell for the ‘Eaters. After guarding Jemerigbe on a few early possessions, Cheung-Sutton came up hobbling a bit and checked out of the game. Having seen just 10 minutes of action, the San Francisco native would attempt to return in the second half before sitting out of the remainder of the second half.
Despite exiting the game early, the injury does not seem to be a major concern.
“[Raelyn] is just having some issues with her back but hopefully she will be ready to go at Northridge,” Fajemisin said.
Heading into the second period, the ‘Eaters continued to struggle with taking care of the ball, garnering nine of their 22 turnovers in the quarter alone. Meanwhile UC Santa Barabara caught fire and seemingly drained every basket that they shot up. With 7:57 remaining before the half, the Gauchos went on a 14-4 offensive flurry. At the half, UCI had trailed by 15, 40-25.
“We need to continue to just be better [with our] on ball [defense] and we need to learn that everyone has to do their job before we can help others,” Fajemisin said. “We just missed a lot of defensive rotations so we just need to continue to work on that and stress the importance of that.”
With a couple of crafty post moves and 12 foot jumpers from Fajemsin, UCI punched back and cut the lead down to 12—the closest that they will get for the rest of the game.
In the fourth, freshman forward Arianna Knox made the most of her time on the floor, hitting four shots and two free throws to post a new career high 10 points in just nine minutes. Knox would prove to be the ‘Eaters lone bright spot for the rest of the game as UC Santa Barbara would finish with 18 points in the quarter to snap their four game losing streak to the ‘Eaters, 80-62.
UCI’s week is not quite done as the ‘Eaters will travel to CSUN (5-18, 3-6) Saturday for a 4:00pm tip off.
“We just have to go at a better pace in practice,” Fajemisin said of the team’s preparations for Saturday’s game. “Northridge does a lot of flat screens, so we’re going to see a lot of the same things that we saw today…so we need to be better by the next game and take this and learn from it.”