A season-high 23 turnovers spoiled the UC Irvine women’s basketball team’s (0-3) chances of scratching in their first victory on the season Thursday morning against Utah State.
Following two losses over A-10 and WCC frontrunners in Saint Louis and Gonzaga, respectively, the ‘Eaters dropped their third, 66-52, in front of a capacity Aggie crowd of over 2,000 jubilant fans.
UCI struggled to take care of the ball, registering five or more turnovers per quarter in the contest. Utah State would go on to capitalize on those errors, converting 26 points off of the ‘Eaters’ miscues.
The loss did not go without some positives for the ‘Eaters who managed to show signs of improvement, most notably in the rebounding department.
After grabbing a combined 53 boards in their last two contests, 48 less than their opposition, UCI owned the glass for the first time this season, taking a 45-39 advantage over the Aggies in the respective category. Senior forward Shereen Sutherland played an integral role in crashing the boards, securing 15 of UCI’s 45 rebounds, 12 of which came during a second half push to close in on an early Aggie lead.
Offensively, UCI managed to find some touches from newcomers Sabrina Engelstad and Brooke Bayman. Engelstad, a junior forward who transferred from Saint Mary’s, came off the bench to lead UCI with a career-high 13 points on 5-11 shooting. Bayman, a true freshman out of Junipero Sierra, started her third game on the year and posted a modest eight points to go along with five boards and three assists.
The ‘Eaters’ starting returners also found the basket on a number of occasions. Sophomore guard Andee Ritter knocked in a career-best four triples for 12 points as junior guard Tierra Hicks registered her first double digit-scoring outing with 10 points.
Behind an Engelstad lay-in, UCI held their first and only lead in the 8:15 mark of the opening period before the Aggies would go on a 16-2 rampage in the next five minutes to flip a 6-3 deficit into a 19-8 point lead.
Led by the duo of freshman guard Olivia West and sophomore guard Rachel Brewster, who would go on to finish with 16 points on 7-15 shooting, the Aggies blossomed the lead to 14 by the end of the period.
UCI answered back with an explosive second period that was capped off with a Bayman lay-up and Ritter triple to bring the lead down to nine.
However, when the ‘Eaters went cold for a four minute stretch, the Aggies found their footing in the paint where they scored all of their five field goals for the period to own a 35-22 point lead heading into the half.
Utah State continued their offensive onslaught, going on an 11-3 run to stretch the lead to 20. Battling back, Ritter caught fire in the third period and drained two shots from beyond the arc, the first of which cut the lead to 15 at the 4:50 mark.
In the final period, a pair of Engelstad free throws and a Bayman layup shaved the lead down to 14, 54-40. Despite going on to own the period, 16-12, UCI struck another dry spell and the Aggies would pace out the game at 66-52.
With the loss, the ‘Eaters will be looking for their first victory this Saturday when they travel to Idaho State for their third match of a seven game road trip.