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UCI Women’s Basketball Falls To UC Riverside With a Final Score of 63-45

The UC Irvine Women’s Basketball team lost to UC Riverside, 63-45, after a tough battle in the Bren Events Center on Friday, Jan. 8. This changes their 2020-21 season overall record to 4-5. 

After victories against UC Santa Barbara in their prior matchups, the Anteaters experienced immense struggle when it came to the intense defense and offense displayed by the Highlanders. Starting from the first quarter, UCR quickly obtained a large lead and UCI could not keep up with the pace. 

The Highlanders grasped the first possession of the ball during the tip-off. UCI, on the other side, started with great defense and prevented UCR from taking open shots. However, the Anteaters struggled offensively as they had difficulty making shots.

Air balls were thrown left and right across the court on both teams, until UCR freshman guard Jordan Webster made the first basket three minutes into the game. UCR took the lead, 3-0. To compete, UCI redshirt freshman guard Chloe Webb was the first to make her shot attempt for the Anteaters, bringing the score to 3-2.

On top of their lack of offensive presence, the Anteaters had difficulty gaining rebounds, bringing only six for the first quarter. On the other end, UCR grabbed 13 rebounds in the first quarter, which is how they initially received their lead. Among the lack of execution on offense, fumble passes and lack of control from the Anteaters, UCR led the first quarter with 16-6. 

Heading into the second quarter, Riverside shot a solid 41% from the field. UCI only executed 31%, which put them at a disadvantage for the rest of the game. However, UCI’s Webb and sophomore center Melodie Kapinga showed excellent offensive and defensive skills in this quarter despite the team trailing 18 points behind UCR.

Going into the third quarter, UCI’s senior guard Dani Guglielmo gave the team’s first three of the game. Yet, UCI was still far behind. UCR managed to increase the score to 49-25 once the final seconds ticked down for the quarter. Webb shot several baskets and had great defense skills throughout the quarter, causing turnovers on UCR’s end. 

There was a noticeable spark in the Anteaters when the fourth quarter began, with Webb shooting right off the bat. UCR responded with intense defense, intercepted passes and attempted difficult shots caused by their opponents.

Kapinga forced turnovers with intense defense and other Anteater players, such as sophomore forward Sophia Locandro and freshman forward Caiyle Kaupu, contributed greatly to closing in on the wide lead UCR had.  

Despite UCI’s efforts, there was not enough time for the team to catch up with the Highlanders. Shooting was the driving force that the Anteaters severely struggled with in this game. They ended the night making six out of 12 free throws, shot 18-52 on the court and made only one out of 10 three point attempts. Unable to execute on open opportunities, it resulted in the final score of 63-45.

Following up with the Anteaters after their tough loss, UCI Women’s Basketball Head Coach Tamara Inoue explained the team will have a different approach to tomorrow’s rematch game against UCR.

“We just have to remember what worked and defend better. They play a good team game and it’s not just one player we got to stop, we got to stop the whole team so I think that’s going to be a big focus,” Inoue said. 

Inoue also explained how the team had been impacted with constant changes in their game schedules due to the COVID-19 pandemic, along with players such as senior guard Haleigh Talbert experiencing injuries in the season.

“It’s tough when you can’t get in a rhythm, you can’t get in rotations, but it’s tough for anyone to not be reliant on what you know. We just roll with the punches, just hoping to get our seniors to play all together, because that’s something we haven’t been able to do,” Talbert said. 

Despite this being a tough loss, the Anteaters are preparing to take on the Highlanders again on Saturday Jan. 8, at 4 p.m. at the Bren Events Center. 

Malia Nazario is a staff writer. She can be reached at mnazario@uci.edu.