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UCI’s Women Basketball Falls Short 66-56 to LMU

The UC Irvine Women’s Basketball team lost to Loyola Marymount University 56-66 in their second game of the season at the Gersten Pavilion on Thursday, Dec. 3. This was a game that went back and forth throughout the entire night.

In their previous game, the Anteaters faced Cal Baptist University on Nov. 28 and also fell short 55-72, cutting their score differential down to only 10 points.

The Anteaters grabbed the first tip of the game starting out strong as they tested an interesting tactic. The team used a four guard front; they played at a fast and intense pace, which stunned the Lions as they struggled to match their energy. 

Although LMU took the first two shots of the game, UCI’s senior guard Haleigh Talbert and redshirt freshman guard Kayla Williams followed it up with threes. Despite this, the intensity and determination was not ignored with the Lions during this game. 

Compared to Irvine, who had 10 athletes available, LMU was extremely limited in players this game, having only seven active players. UCI’s Head Coach Tamara Inoue exploited the Lions’ disadvantage by constantly switching her players out, allowing her team to get rest when needed while also playing around with different lineups to try throwing off the Lions’ defense. Surprisingly, the score was still kept close as it was tied 9-9 around the five minute mark in the first half. 

With a foul on UCI, the Lions were able to obtain a one-point lead of 10-9. But after the free throw, both UCI’s senior center Tahlia Garza and Williams boosted their team’s lead by consistently scoring buckets on the floor. Through team effort, UCI held the Lions to scoring only one three-pointer. The first quarter ended with UCI leading 19-13.

During the second quarter, the Lions began to pick up the pace, excelling at chasing rebounds as UCI continued to swap players out consistently and quickly to keep LMU on their toes. 

As the quarter went on, the Anteaters started having difficulty getting past the blocks and intense defense by the Lions’ freshman guard Nicole Rodriguez. The team as a whole excelled in blocking out UCI’s sophomore guard Jayde Cadee, who is a player known to have a strong pattern of shooting threes.

However, Inoue’s strategy of constant switching was successful for the well-rested Talbert and Williams as they finished off the second quarter shooting a barrage of threes, keeping UCI in the lead at 34-28.

In the third quarter, the game initially leaned strongly in favor for the Anteaters as they acquired a great lead of 44-33. Talbert continued her rain of threes while UCI used their height as an advantage to deny the Lions in the paint. 

Despite UCI’s strong efforts, LMU was persistent with their offense as they found the open player and made the extra pass to get off quick, easy shots. The Lions managed to cut down the lead to only five. Fighting, William’s great defense caused the Lions to turnover the ball in the final seconds of the quarter, keeping UCI just barely in front with a close score of 47-44. 

Straight into the fourth quarter, LMU’s redshirt freshman guard, Natalia Klimek, scored a crucial three, tying up the score. With UCI struggling to maintain their rebounds, the Lions took the lead by two points. With strong players like sophomore forward/center Khari Clark and Klimek, the team continued to further their lead 58-51 with four and a half minutes left in the game. 

The Anteaters did not give up hope as they fought hard in the paint and tried freeing each other from their defenders. However, the Lions were wise to hold onto the ball and took as much time as possible in order for the shot clock to run out. This led to the final score to have a hard loss for UCI with LMU winning 66-56.

Following up with the Anteaters after, Talbert expresses how the team has been affected with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“We do miss our top fans that used to come all the time,” Talbert said.

With the team’s morale still high this season in regards to this pandemic, UCI sophomore forward Sophia Locandro spoke out on the impacts that the team had to experience as well. 

“It’s definitely different. There’s a lot of rules set in place and things we have to do differently, but we try and just keep a positive mindset about it all,”  Locandro said. 

Although this was a tough loss for the team, the Anteaters are taking on the San Diego State Aztec Warriors on Saturday, Dec. 19 at 4 p.m. at the Viejas Arena at Aztec Bowl. 

Malia Nazario is a Sports Intern for the 2020 Fall Quarter. She can be reached at mnazario@uci.edu.