The last time the UC Irvine women’s basketball team matched up against Cal Poly, the ‘Eaters had given up a 10-point lead in the final three minutes of regulation, resulting in an upsetting loss—the last the team had suffered since going on a six game win streak.
UCI did not leave anything up to chance when the Mustangs visited the Bren late Wednesday afternoon, heating up in the second period and staying hot the rest of the way to secure their seventh straight victory in the fashion of reaching the century mark for the second time on year with a scorching 107-66 decision.
“Faith Mimnaugh is just a legendary coach in my opinion,” head coach Tamara Inoue said of the Cal Poly head coach. “She coached when I was a player here in this conference and one thing you know about Faith and her team is that they never stop playing. If I try to slow it down, I just feel like we’ll get eaten alive…so if I don’t keep the pace that I know we can play for the whole game…then we’d be in trouble. Just the way [Faith] does things, you just get leave anything for chance.”
The win was also a crucial one in creating some distance against Cal Poly who has been up on UCI’s heals, vying for the second place slot in conference at half a game back from the ‘Eaters going into the contest.
“Getting into the top two spots in the Big West is crucial,” coach Inoue said. “I think for our team…just to get that rest and get that advantage and so standings are very, very important to us and we know that. It’s not a secret to our team. It’s going the right direction but it’s still a long season and we got to keep it day by day.”
Junior guard Morgan Green was on her regular offensive niche, pacing the team with 29 points eight rebounds, eight assists, and six steals. Though, She credited the team’s preparation on defensive end for the win.
“It all started in practice,” Green said of the preparation for the Mustangs. “We really tried to focus on defense and stopping them and not allowing them to get in the paint so easily and I think we did a great job of that.
Meanwhile, freshman Jordan Sanders reached a new career high with 23 points to go with seven rebounds.
“With Jordan as a freshman…doing what she is doing, it just speaks volumes about the direction we’re going,” coach Inoue said. “Jordan is a quiet kid but she’s a competitor…and she’s finding her groove.”
The two teams came out clawing at one another, answering basket for basket.
Cal Poly, however, began to heat up from downtown, going 4-7 beyond the arc to take a eight-point edge, 24-16, by the end of the period.
Perhaps recalling the way things had quickly went wrong against the Mustangs in their last outing, the ‘Eaters wasted little time in planting their foot down.
Ritter got the offense going with a triple to bring the deficit down five.
The bucket seemed as though it was all the ‘Eaters needed as UCI returned fire from long range, going on to convert 77.8 percent from three as opposed to just 20 percent in the opening period.
Ritter, who has struggled to find her shot from downtown since returning from injury, found her rhythm again, ending up hitting four of her seven triples in the quarter. Out of a time out, the Medford, Oregon native poured in back to back baskets that put the ‘Eaters up 15, 41-36.
“She’s finally getting her legs back [and] her rhythm,” coach Inoue said of Ritter. “Andee is a special kid and I think that we’re so concerned about her threes that we don’t realize how great a defender she is. She stays in games because of her defense. I know she going to hit threes and Morgan does a great job of always finding her.”
As the ‘Eaters offense was kicking, the defense was equally impressive. Cal Poly was held to just five points on 1-13 shooting.
With the offense and defense rolling on both sides, the ‘Eaters would head into the lockers with a 22-point lead, 51-29.
UCI kept their foot on the gas pedal for the second half with Green on the driver’s seat. The Mustangs could not stop the 5-foot seven guard, who pulled up and drained a pair of threes and danced her way into the paint to cap the third quarter with seven points. She followed that up with a 12-point exclamation in the fourth to help secure the 41-point win.
Sanders also continued to attack, finishing with 11 of her 23, most of which came from jumpers from a little over the free thrown line.
The ‘Eaters are going to attempt to make it eight in a row when they travel to Santa Barbara Saturday for a 7:00pm tip.
“The Thunderdome is no easy place to play and we know that,” coach Inoue said. “You know you can never let up in any game in this conference and so we have to keep it going for forty minutes.”