Junior Andee Ritter and freshman Dani Guglielmo combined for nine triples to lead the UC Irvine women’s basketball team (2-1) to a 63-52 victory over the Portland Pilots (3-1) Friday night at the Bren Events Center.
“I think we did a really good job just sticking with it and playing together,” head coach Tamara Inoue said. “I thought our second quarter coming out was real nice. Obviously having Dani come out and hit some threes [that] got our momentum swinging and we stayed on that momentum for the rest of the game.”
Guglielmo, one of five true freshman among coach Inoue’s new recruiting class, caught fire off the bench in her season debut at the Bren, draining 5 threes—going 4-4 in the second period alone—in 18 minutes of action for a game-high 15 points.
“Offensively, it took us a little bit to get into our rhythm but I think once we did that we just fell back into what we know,” Guglielmo said. “We kept getting to where we needed to go [by] driving and attacking…we started hitting our shots and that’s one of the reasons that I think both myself and Andee were able to get up so many threes.”
Ritter, already an established long-range shooter whose 87 three-pointers eclipsed a 28-year-old single season program record last year, went 4-9 from downtown and dropped a high-arching finger roll to finish with 14 points on the night. Ritter also secured five boards and played the pacing lanes well, snagging four of the ‘Eaters 12 steals. Ritter credited her offense with sparks provided from her teammates coming off the bench.
“[In] today’s game, we finally got in the flow of offense that we’ve been working on especially since Dani and Haleigh [Talbert] came in and made some shots and got everyone else involved,” Ritter said.
Freshman forward Jordan Sanders rounded out the double figure scoring for the ‘Eaters with 12. Sanders caused a ton of trouble for the Pilots with her midrange jumpers, where she cashed in the majority of her points. Sanders shook off a quiet outing in Nevada and picked up from where she left off the last time she was at the Bren, a night in where she had put up 15 points, all of which also came within the arc.
Freshman guard Haleigh Talbert also had a solid night, coming off the bench along with Guglielmo to register nine points, four assists, and three assists in 19 minutes.
By the end of the night, 11 of 14 ‘Eaters saw action and of the 11, 10 contributed at least a basket. With their balanced effort and depth, coach Inoue has full confidence in running with an extensive rotation moving forward.
“If [you] can have 10 players that really do their job and contribute in a good way…of course, you would love play as many [players] as you can just to keep [the team] fresh,” coach Inoue said. “Because we are so new and I have so many players…we got to try everything and see what’s working.”
On a Ritter triple, the ‘Eaters earned their largest lead in the first period at 12-8 with a little over two minutes to spare. Coming off a major 71-64 overtime victory over Utah Valley however, Portland was not one to allow the game to slip away, pulling back within one on a basket plus one conversion from senior forward Ashley Gray. A following Pilot lay-up would then overturn the lead as the opposition sneaked away with a slight edge, 13-12.
Kicking off the second half, Portland tacked on a few more baskets to bolster their lead to five. On the defensive, the Pilots attempted to halt the ‘Eaters with their aggressive coverage in the painted area, paying a careful eye on UCI’s top freshman recruit Tahlia Garza, who ended up finishing with a modest four points on the evening. Despite a quiet night, coach Inoue believes that Garza can learn from the heavy coverage that Portland had on her.
“Tahlia has such an upside,” coach Inoue said. “She’s that mobile big that is great for my system and she can only go up. The contact…she doesn’t shy away from it [but] she hasn’t seen it much…and so tonight was a good taste of division I basketball and I thought it was good for her.”
However, Guglielmo, a fellow Archbishop Mitty High School product along with Garza, punished the Pilots for their collapsed defensive effort, cautching fire in the second by going 4-4 from beyond the arc to steer the momentum back the ‘Eaters’ way.
Guglielmo’s first three-pointer brought the ‘Eaters within three, 22-19, just before her second tied the match up; her third conversion from deep at the 3:47 mark got UCI up for the first time since their four-point advantage in the closing minutes of the first. The sharpshooting newcomer was not done yet, later draining another trey to extend the lead, 30-25.
With much of the attention now on Guglielmo, Ritter joined in on the party, raining a deep triple of her own and following that up with a rare nifty lay-in to set the score at 35-28 heading into the half.
A few mistimed passes and turnovers provided lulls in the ‘Eaters’ efforts coming out of the third as Portland came two points away from tying on two separate occasions, but the ‘Eaters hot shooting continued. Appropriately, Ritter would hit another long range bomb to cushion the lead again at five, 43-38 while Guglielmo splashed in the final basket in the period—her fifth triple—for even more insurance.
With a nine point lead, the ‘Eaters padded their advantage and went up by as many as 15 to route Portland the rest of the way as the finally tally capped off at 63-52.
UCI will have one day to prepare for their next challenge, which will come Sunday at 2:00pm when they welcome Idaho State. Hinging on their success Friday, the ‘Eaters will attempt to upend their opponent, who has defeated them in their last five meetings.
“[Idaho State] is a good team,” coach Inoue said. “They do a good job of running their system. They have veterans with juniors and seniors and we’re [composed of] freshman and sophomores so we can’t make too many mistakes…they’ll really capitalize on us. It’s going to be a tough one, they’re a really good team…they just beat Washington by 20 which is a good power five team so we got to watch that.”
Guglielmo reflects her coaches expectations for the matchup, but is, nevertheless excited.
“I think it should be a good game,” Guglielmo said. “They’re coming off some good wins so I know we’re going to get in there, watch some film…we have Saturday to go over stuff and probably shoot around on Sunday to fine tune everything. If we come out and keep doing our stuff, hopefully we’ll come out on top…but it should be a battle.”