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First Victory of the Season for UCI Women’s Basketball Against Westmont College, 91-78

The UCI Women’s Basketball team received their first win of the 2020-21 season against Westmont College after heading into overtime to close off the game, 91-78, at the Bren Events Center on Dec. 9. This was a close game that resulted in a successful end for the Anteaters.

The Anteaters started with their strategic four guard front, receiving the first tip. Immediately, the two teams played neck-to-neck basketball as UCI’s senior guard Haleigh Talbert scored a three while Westmont’s senior guard Lauren Tsuneishi matched the energy with a three of her own.

The Warriors and Anteaters continued their back-to-back scoring. Yet, UCI caused a lot of fouls early in the quarter as they had five team fouls in four minutes. Despite this, the Anteaters continued to dominate the inside as senior center Tahlia Garza tied up the game, 15-15. 

The teams entered the second quarter tied at 18-18. Quickly into the second quarter, UCI increased the intensity on the court with Garza holding five rebounds in 10 minutes and UCI’s redshirt freshman guard Kayla Williams demonstrating strong defense skills. They obtained the lead, 22-19.

Throughout the second quarter, both Westmont and UCI went back and forth on the court. They played tough defense on each other as both teams found themselves in a scoring drought for around five minutes. As the timer hit two minutes and 39 seconds, Westmont finally cleared the drought. With the slight lead, Westmont came up with another bucket and stole the lead, 23-22. UCI’s sophomore guard Jayde Cadee was quick to shut it down as she scored a three, grasping that lead once more, 25-23. 

Westmont followed up Cadee’s three with their own and were up by one once again. Fighting until the halftime mark, Talbert was able to get the lead with a layup in 1.4 seconds. Irvine ended the half with the lead once more, 27-26.

Westmont started the third quarter by making the first shot that led to them taking the lead. Again, UCI adjusted to the quarter as sophomore forward Sophia Locandro scored two shots after playing five minutes in the first half. 

With Westmont following shortly behind, UCI got the distant lead at 44-37 with the help of Talbert and intense defense by sophomore center Melodie Kapinga. However, the close game continued to go on after a surprising call on Talbert and a foul on UCI’s sophomore guard Chloe Webb. This thinned their lead as Westmont continued to catch up with Westmont’s junior guard Lyree Jarrett scoring a three at the last second. 

Heading into the last quarter, the Anteaters started off strong as Williams and Talbert guided UCI to the lead, 61-51. Kapinga played an intense inside game as she maintained the lead, 67-58, one minute and 58 seconds left in the quarter. 

Just as UCI got comfortable with 55 seconds left, Westmont snuck up to 68-65, barely behind UCI. With both Williams and Garza getting fouled, only Garza managed to get one in at the free throw line, now a four point lead for UCI. 

In a nail biting last three seconds, UCI turned the ball over and Westmont took advantage. Westmont scored a jumper in the paint, tying the score 69-69 with 0.5 seconds left. The night was not over as both teams went into overtime. 

Fortunately, nerves did not phase the Anteaters that night. With two minutes and 45 seconds left on the clock, they ended with a nine point lead, 80-71. Kapinga continued to swat the ball with amazing defense while Williams continued to shoot. UCI obtained the biggest lead of the night with a 13 point deficit.

Ending the night, 91-78, the Anteaters were able to get their first well earned win of the season. 

Following up with the Anteater’s after the game, Williams expressed how it felt to receive that win after a long, tough game. 

“It feels great, sitting out last year, it was tough, but it feels great to actually be a part of a win this season. It was a team effort so everybody is feeling good about it, and many  more to come,” Williams said.  

Talking about the strategies that worked best this game, Williams discussed the intuition and drive the team had throughout the game. 

“Attacking worked best, we noticed that a couple of the guards did get in foul trouble, so we wanted to attack and move the ball. As you can see our shooter’s got hot, so move the ball, find an open shooter, knock it down, play defense, that is what was working for us,” Williams said.

Heading into that nerve wracking overtime, Williams explained that the team knew what needed to be done in order to get this win they all strived to have. 

“Get the momentum back. With the first overtime, we knew that we did not end the fourth quarter well, but we needed to come out strong both offensively and defensively and that’s what we did,” Williams said.

The UCI Women’s Basketball team ended the night with their first win of the season. They are looking forward to carrying the momentum over to their next game against Saint Mary’s College at the Bren Events Center on Dec. 16 at 2 p.m.

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