The UCI Women’s basketball team claimed their eighth victory of the season with a final score of 82-75 against the Cal State Fullerton Titans at the Bren Events Center on Feb. 13. The Anteaters’ overall record increased to 8-16 while their Big West conference record became 4-6, bumping their position to sixth overall in the conference.
UCI senior Lauren Saiki opened the first quarter with two three-pointers and a bucket inside the paint. The game constantly fluctuated as the Titans played heavy defense, blocked the passing lanes and broke through the Anteaters’ interior defense.
However, the Anteaters were able to rack up six assists in the first quarter due to their strong offense, loose ball chases, ball shares and open player finds. The period ended with 18-16 with the Anteaters in the lead.
The Titans ramped up their game as they began drawing more fouls inside the key and frequently saw themselves at the free throw line. They also focused their defense on Saiki, attempting to shut down her three-pointers and her passing vision.
The Anteaters tried to close out on interior shooters but no matter their efforts, the Titans always seemed to find a way to score. Their quick transitions and fast break offense became key factors for the Titans in the second quarter.
Even then, the Anteaters were able to keep up with the tough defense as they remained aggressive on the offensive glass and gained vital second chance points. With both teams gaining no significant lead, the Anteaters trailed 33-34 by the end of the first half.
With an unchanged strategy, the Titans persistently scored in the third quarter through post moves or by drawing fouls. They also capitalized on fast break points, taking advantage of the Anteaters who seemed to be low on stamina.
UCI was desperate to stay in the game as the team seemed to slowly fall apart. Although they were able to create space, get good looks and used screens effectively, they were out of rhythm shooting wise but were kept alive due to their outstanding offensive rebounding.
With the Titans in control throughout the quarter, they ended the third quarter with a comfortable 58-52 lead.
Going into the fourth quarter, a spark seemed to ignite the Anteaters as they went on two scoring runs through drawing contact, exploiting threes, chasing after rebounds and feeding freshman Sophia Locandro inside the paint.
Defensively, the team was efficient. The Anteaters clogged up the key, blocked shots inside the paint and caused several turnovers through shot clock violations, steals and closing in on shooters. This ultimately led to the Titans forcing bad shots.
As a whole, the Anteaters shutdown the Titans through good communication and plays to free up shooters. The Anteaters stayed persistent and stole the show from the Titans.
Saiki seemed to be the most active throughout the plays as she took the role of being the leader on the team. She Called multiple plays, encouraged the team, advised players on what to do and made several shots to get the team and crowd going.
With a nice balance of freshmen and seniors on the team, Locandro — who led the game with 23 points — commented on the mentoring seniors.
“They are always encouraging me, giving me tips, especially Lauren [Saiki], she’s talking to me the whole time, giving me advice. Same thing with Haleigh [Talbert]. They are always keeping us energized and telling me to shoot the ball, giving me the ball in the paint,” Locandro said.
The Anteaters look to increase their win streak in their next game at UC Davis on Feb. 15.
Aviraj Gokool is a Sports Intern for the 2020 winter quarter. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.