A hot shooting night for sophomore guard Andee Ritter was not enough to lift the UC Irvine women’s basketball team (2-14, 0-2) over defending conference champions UC Riverside (7-7, 1-0) Saturday evening as head coach Tamara Inoue’s squad suffered their second straight loss of Big West play, 78-58.
Ritter was unconscious from downtown, hitting seven triples, enough to place her in a three-way tie for the school record for most converted threes in a game with Kathy Lizarraga (1988-89) and Katie Curtis (2004-05). Ritter led the ‘Eaters with 23 points — the third time she has hit 20 or more on the season — and also had three blocks, three steals, and three rebounds to round out the stat sheet.
Junior forward Sabrina Engelstad gave the ‘Eaters a fighting chance early on and was a major contributor during a run that would give UCI a 35-34 lead going into the half. She would finish the game with 12 points, four assists and four rebounds.
However, just one game removed from drawing four fouls in 18 minutes, Engelstad wrestled with limited playing time again, clocking out at 26 minutes and eventually leaving the game with her fifth personal during the final minute of regulation.
UCI connected on all cylinders in the first half, shooting 40.7 percent from the field and drained all eight of their free throws.
UCI stunned last season’s Big West champs by taking on an 18-6 advantage to open the game. Much of the run came to the credit of Ritter who scored more than half of the team’s points after hitting three triples within a span of three minutes and one more from downtown nearing the minute mark of the quarter.
In the second period, Engelstad extended the lead to 13 before sophomore forward Malou Thiebaut De Kergret hit a triple that got the Highlanders on a 9-2 run to shave the deficit to seven.
Junior guard Lauren Holt, who posted 20 points and six rebounds for the game, shook off a quiet first period and scored 12 of the Highlanders’ next 19 points. With 3:50 left before the half, Holt converted a lay-up to bring the deficit down to one and 42 seconds later, she would return to drain a jumper that gave Riverside their first lead of the night, 29-28.
UCI would pull back and reclaim a slight 35-34 advantage courtesy of a lay-in and a pair of free throws from Engelstad, but a once comfortable lead had evaporated.
Picking up from Holt’s offensive push, senior forward Réjane Vérin — who finished with a team-high 21 points, 10 rebounds, and seven assists — knocked in the Highlanders’ first six points to claim the lead. Ritter would slacken Riverside’s run with her fifth triple of the night, but the ‘Eaters went on a five minute dry spell that resulted in a 11-5 Highlander run.
The rally would not only return the lead to Riverside, but would also give the opposition a 58-46 advantage heading into the fourth.
UCI could not recover from their third quarter drought and ended the second half shooting 36 percent from the floor, as Riverside would patent their lead, 76-58, to end the game.
Having lost both games of the opening week of conference, the ‘Eaters will be searching for their first victory Wednesday when they return to the Bren to face CSUN (8-8, 1-1) for a 7:00 p.m. tip.