The UCI Women’s Basketball team (0-1) ended a three-game home opener win streak with their 72-55 blowout loss to California Baptist University Lancers (2-0) on Nov. 28 at the Bren Events Center. This is their first-ever loss against the Lancers.
The Anteaters were poised to start the new season on an aggressive note. After losing the tip-off, UCI senior guard Haleigh Talbert forced a turnover by stealing the ball from CBU senior guard Ane Olaeta. However, UCI redshirt freshman guard Kayla Williams failed to convert the turnover into points with her first missed shot. This marked the beginning of an increasingly poor performance for the team.
CBU scored the first points of the afternoon two minutes into the game when sophomore wing Tiena Neale made a layup to put the Lancers up 2-0. The Lancers continued to capitalize on good offensive plays which increased their early lead to 9-2. The Anteaters’ slow start was triggered by Olaeta’s defensive full-court press and sophomore guard Taylor Wu’s tight one-on-one defense. Olaeta finished the game with seven steals and 17 points.
Despite the Anteater’s persistent offensive struggles, UCI sophomore forward Sophia Locandro had a string of key defensive plays by forcing two consecutive missed layups by CBU. Unfortunately, Locandro’s defensive presence in the paint wasn’t enough to shift the momentum as CBU pushed their lead to eight when freshman guard Nicole Avila-Ambrosi hit a corner three. UCI senior guard Dani Guglielmo checked in and hit a much-needed three-pointer for the Anteaters, cutting CBU’s lead to 16-11 at the end of the first quarter. Guglielmo hit another three-pointer in the second quarter but would go scoreless for the rest of the game, finishing with six points and five rebounds.
Both teams played the remainder of the half with a heightened sense of urgency to score on their offensive possessions. CBU was able to gain points off of fast-break opportunities. Olaeta’s elusive speed and suffocating defense tired the already struggling UCI squad.
The Anteaters attempted to slow the pace of play by bringing the ball towards the post but were still unable to successfully score. The Lancers kept their foot on the gas and extended their lead to 11 with a layup from sophomore guard Dorcas Wu with just two minutes left to play in the half. The first half finished with UCI trailing 31-22 after a successful screen-and-roll layup by Williams before the buzzer.
“We know she hesitates every time, we kept falling for it,” Head Coach Tamara Inoue said regarding Olaeta’s explosive game. “It’s just a coaching error, not a player error”.
The third quarter exhibited CBU’s continued success on the offensive end with the Lancers shooting a perfect 3-3 beyond the three-point arc. On the other end, UCI shot an abysmal 0-6 from beyond the arc which reduced their chances of a second half comeback. The Anteaters moved the ball well with their constant swing passes with intent to find an open player to score, but the Lancers’ defense left UCI stranded at the three-point line.
Taylor Wu led the Lancers’ third quarter offensive success, making two three-pointers. Locandro and Williams were able to score to keep CBU’s lead from growing, but their efforts were not enough to make it a close game. The Lancers dominance was unwavering. Avila-Ambrosi made a free-throw that put them up by 20 points and would eventually hit a three-pointer that extended their lead. The third quarter ended with a score of 60-33, marking CBU’s largest lead during the game.
UCI improved in the fourth quarter by scoring a total of 22 points — six of which came in the first three minutes. The final frame saw the Anteaters progress offensively, but it was not enough to bring them within reach of the Lancers’ 72-55 final score.
“Every game that we get to play we’re going to take advantage of; just have to get this one out of the way, be rusty,” Inoue said about the team’s outlook on this season.
The Anteaters shot a combined 17-71 from the field and 5-28 from beyond the three-point arc. Williams had an unsuccessful debut with the team, shooting 4-19 from the field with five missed three-point attempts and a total of five turnovers. Freshman guard Victoria Baker faced similar struggles, going 1-7 from the field and turning over the ball twice.
Inoue and her Anteaters will look to secure their first victory when they face off against Loyola Marymount University at Gersten Pavilion on Dec. 3.
Stefan C. Jones is a Staff Writer. He can be reached at email@example.com.