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Anteaters Win in Clutch Time, 62-60, Against the Highlanders

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UCI Women’s Basketball beat the UC Riverside Highlanders, 62-60, with a comeback in the final seconds of their non-conference game at the Bren Events Center on Jan. 9.

The Anteaters were originally scheduled to play UC Davis before it was canceled due to Yolo County’s health and safety ordinances. Therefore, a two-game set against UCR was scheduled after their series against the University of Hawaii was canceled. This two-game series did not affect the Big West standings as it was scheduled as a non-conference meeting. 

The teams squared off the previous evening with the Highlanders (2-5, 0-2) defeating the Anteaters (5-5, 2-0) by a score of 63-45.  

Not wanting to get off to another slow start, the Anteaters played with ferocity in the first quarter. The Anteaters were persistent in ball movement and communication both offensively and defensively. 

Early in the game, the Anteaters focused on feeding the ball to sophomore forward Sophia Locandro in the paint so she could score close distanced baskets. With her size and wit in the paint, Locandro easily gave her team an offensive spark for the quarter. She tallied six of her 13 points in the first quarter.

Defensively, the Anteaters quickly closed in on perimeter shooters and clogged driving lanes. As a result, the Highlanders ended the quarter with six turnovers which were converted into eight points for the Anteaters. UCI ended the quarter with a  21-13 advantage.

UCI’s dominant playstyle seeped into the second quarter. After allowing only four UCR points in the first few minutes, the Anteaters went on an 8-0 run centered around Locandro’s height and ability to draw fouls in the paint that led to valuable free-throw opportunities. 

Through this brand of basketball, the Anteaters had a comfortable lead of 29-17 with around four minutes left in the quarter. 

Although they were behind throughout the game, UCR never lost determination and consistently attempted to steal the lead from their opponents. To close the wide gap just before the end of the half, the Highlanders went on a scoring run themselves, going 10-2.

The Highlander’s momentum continued to roll until UCI’s senior guard Dani Guglielmo drew a three-point foul with one second left in the half. She made all her free throw attempts that kept UCI in the lead, 34-27.

Out of the halftime break, the Highlanders regained their momentum. They read the Anteaters’ passing lanes and intercepted passes which translated into easy fastbreak buckets. UCR used good ball movement around the court to find the open shot. 

With that, the Highlanders cut UCI’s lead down to 39-36 four minutes into the quarter. The Anteaters played sluggishly as their ball-handling became sloppy and led to an increase in turnovers. 

In an effort to counter UCR’s energy, UCI’s redshirt freshman guard Kayla Williams invigorated her team with a three-pointer. On the next play, Williams stole the ball and went on a fastbreak that was capped off by a bucket scored by freshman guard Victoria Baker. Williams finished the evening with 10 points and seven assists.

The Anteaters and Highlanders continued to battle hard, as both teams tried to weasel their way into the paint to either score a close bucket or draw contact for a foul. On the defensive end, the Anteaters outmatched the Highlanders in the paint with key blocks and rebounds. UCI went on another scoring run and ended the quarter with a 49-40 lead.

The Highlanders entered the fourth quarter with determination. UCR broke through the tough UCI defense and scored jumpers at mid-range and in the paint. This effort turned into a 10-0 Highlander run, stealing the lead, with a score of 50-49 only two and a half minutes into the final quarter.

The Anteaters found themselves in a shooting woe. Their shooting percentage plummeted in the final quarter as they struggled to find the bottom of the net. However, dominant rebounding by UCI created second chance opportunities. UCI’s redshirt freshman guard Chloe Webb was able to keep her team alive through her jumpshots alongside Locandro’s free throws. 

With 40 seconds left on the clock, the Highlanders led, 60-57. 

The Highlanders held the ball and ran down the shot clock to ensure that UCI had very little time to create any sort of comeback. As the shot clock hit zero, the Highlanders attempted a three-point shot that resulted in a defensive rebound for the Anteaters.  A timeout was called by UCI with only seven seconds left in the contest.

UCI’s head coach, Tamara Inoue, easily decided to sub in her best three-point shooters, Guglielmo and sophomore guard Jayde Cadee. 

Cadee — usually known for her spot up shooting — was in a shooting slump and had gone  0-14 in field goal shots.

Following the timeout, UCI inbounded the ball from halfcourt. Cadee stood at the corner arch, wide open. The ball was passed to her and she quickly released the ball into the air. She knocked down the open look to tie up the game at 60 a piece.

Despite Cadee’s recent struggles, Inoue was confident in the sophomore’s skills.

“Every shot that Jayde takes is going in, in my eyes,” Inoue said. “It doesn’t matter if she’s been sitting on the bench all game, she just has the confidence to hit that shot, and she works at it. For me, it’s a no brainer.” 

Once the shot went through, UCR called a timeout while the Anteaters ecstatically jumped out of their seats to congratulate Cadee. 

The Highlanders inbounded the ball to senior guard Keilanei Cooper with three seconds left. Cooper, who had a clear lane to the hoop was called for a costly traveling violation that turned the ball over to the Anteaters with one second left. UCI called timeout.

“Dani is our best inbounder in that situation; she sees it well,” Inoue said. “I asked in the timeout if Chloe, Lex [Alexus Seaton] or Sophia wanted it, and Chloe put her hand up so she got the go on that one.” 

With a gameplan set, Guglielmo inbounded the ball. Webb ran into the paint, received the ball and threw in a quick layup over the UCR defenders. Just as the buzzer sounded, the ball found the bottom of the net. 

“We can rely on [Webb] to be strong and get a bucket when we need it,” Inoue said. “She’s the one you go to when you need a quick two points.” 

Although their shooting percentage (38.5%) was lower than UCR’s (46.8%), UCI won their rematch game against the Highlanders with their clutch performance. The Anteaters controlled the glass as they grabbed a total of 35 rebounds versus UCR’s 28 rebounds. UCI also capitalized on points off turnovers, scoring 21 as opposed to UCR’s 10.

“We just came in as it’s a new day,” Webb said. “We watched film and tried to fix our problems. We came back really wanting this game.”  

Webb led the Anteaters with 14 points and nine rebounds. UCR’s Cooper led all players with 16 points.

The Anteaters will take some time off until their next games against Cal Poly SLO on Jan. 22-23 at the Mott Athletics Center. UCI and UCR are scheduled to meet in their Big West series on Feb. 12-13 at the Bren Events Center.

Avi Gokool is a 2020-2021 Sports Co-Editor. He can be reached at sports@newuniversity.org