Finishing their non-conference slate 8-6 to hold the second best record in the Big West, the UC Irvine women’s basketball team is looking to carry their favorable start into conference play tonight, welcoming UC Davis at the Bren events center at 7:00pm.
The Aggies will be a good challenge for the ‘Eaters as the defending conference champs are on pace to lead the league once again, currently sitting at the top with a 10-3 record. After going for a historic 9-0 start, the team received some national notoriety by making it onto the top 5 slot in CollegeInsider.com’s Mid-Major poll.
Junior forward Morgan Bertsch has been putting up big numbers for Davis, averaging a conference leading 20.2 points per game on 54.9 shooting. Bertsch recieved Big West All-Conference preseason honors in both coaches and media polls.
Against UCI, Davis holds a 25-2 overall series advantage and has bested the ‘Eaters in their past four meetings.
The ‘Eaters, however, have impressed in their non-conference play. Despite being selected to finish second to last in conference preseason polls, UCI has gone above .500 for the first time in seven years, back when the program ended up finishing 15-15 in the 2010-11 campaign.
UCI has also taken full advantage of their home court, snagging four victories and two closely contested losses for their best home stand in four years.
Much of the credit has been placed on the new look team that head coach Tamara Inoue and her staff have pieced together as this year’s team features five true freshman, five transfers, and just two seniors.
While nobody on the team is currently averaging double digits in scoring, this is a testament to the effective way that UCI has shared the ball, running a total team effort with 11 different ‘Eaters earning team high honors through the first 14 games; Those 11 players of the 13 who are actively listed on UCI’s roster have also played in at least 13 minutes of action per contest.
On the other end of the floor, the ‘Eaters have protected their basket well and is considered one of the conference’s best defensive teams, ranking second in turnovers forced and third in steals. Through four of their last five games, they have drawn at least 20 turnovers out of their opposition.
After kicking off conference play against the Aggies, UCI will fly over to Honolulu to face off against the Rainbow Wahine in a late 9:00pm tip next Thursday, Jan. 11th.