The UCI Women’s Basketball team (6-5, 3-0) defeated the Cal Poly Mustangs (5-4, 1-2), 63-52, at the Mott Athletics Center on Friday, Jan. 22.
After winning their previous game against UC Riverside, 62-60, UCI’s preparation and focus against the Mustangs reflected well on the court. The Anteaters welcomed back senior guard Haleigh Talbert, who missed the last five games due to an injury.
The first quarter tipped off with the Anteaters controlling the ball. The teams traded turnovers before redshirt freshman guard Kayla Williams hit a jumper to open the scoring.
Williams opened strong and scored six straight buckets off of three turnovers from the Mustangs. This gave UCI a 6-0 lead two minutes into the game.
Between the height advantage of sophomore forward Sophia Locandro and the quick inner pass played by senior guard Alexus Seaton, the Anteaters had an explosive offensive start alongside a quick defensive pace. This allowed them to take an early lead against the Mustangs. In comparison, Cal Poly could not find the basket and plummeted their shot percentage. This led them to constantly make turnovers, which UCI took advantage of.
Talbert played the game seemingly refreshed and unfazed from her injury. She quickly made her appearance on the stat sheet with the help of redshirt sophomore guard Chloe Webb, who threw a pass from the inside. This resulted in UCI leading, 12-5.
The Mustangs had a slow start as they struggled to keep up with UCI’s intense momentum. With five minutes left in the quarter, Cal Poly’s sophomore point guard Abbey Ellis obtained two personal fouls. Cal Poly soon made a shot three minutes in, ending the first quarter eight points behind UCI. The score was 17-9.
Entering the second quarter, the Mustangs played strong defense against the Anteaters. However, they were unable to stop UCI’s dominant shooter, Williams; she led her team to maintain the large deficit.
As the Mustangs made only 24% of their total shots so far, UCI’s Williams, Seaton and Webb continued barraging the Mustangs with their demonstrative shooting. The Anteaters held a commanding lead, 28-18, to end the half with the help of strong defense formations and 11 turnovers.
Coming into the third quarter, the Mustangs found footing in their game and increased the pace. Ellis started the momentum by being the first to score in the second half as they hardened their defense and penetrated through UCI’s stellar inside defense. UCI’s lead began to shorten as Cal Poly cut the lead to six points.
Understanding the loss of momentum, the Anteaters focused on offensive rebounds and forced turnovers from the Mustangs. The score was now 32-28, with UCI barely leading. The Mustangs read the court well as they anticipated UCI’s defense and frequently found the open shooter.
For a split second, the Mustangs topped with a one point lead. In response, Talbert scored an assertive three; this gave UCI the lead once again, 35-33. Head coach Tamara Inoue explained the team’s focus and hope on extending the lead even further.
“Haleigh [Talbert] hit a bank three, and from there that kind of riled it back up to intensify our press and then we got a quick turnover after that,” Inoue said. “So that was just scoring that leads to great defense, and it should be the other way around but at this point we have to score to press.”
Inoue commented on Seaton’s impressive basketball IQ; she ended the night with 11 points, four rebounds and five steals.
“I credit Alexus Seaton today, just really getting after it and just making sure we’re in it, so it was good, staying at the press and knowing we could tire them out, ” Inoue said.
By the end of the third quarter, the Anteaters regained their commanding lead and headed into the fourth quarter with a score of 41-39.
The Mustangs started the last quarter with aggressive defense. The energy soon, however, died down as they caused a foul and allowed UCI to benefit from another turnover. Within 30 seconds of the quarter, both teams received an offensive foul.
Throughout the last quarter, the Mustang’s morale seemed to steadily drop as UCI ensured there was no chance of a comeback. The game slowed down as both teams used up much of the shot clock.
Locandro contributed to the extended lead with her strong shooting, rebounding and intense defense. With a three by senior guard Dani Guglielmo and free throw shots from Webb and Turner, the Anteaters stretched out their lead. UCI finished the game with a victory of 63-52.
Williams led the team by scoring 16 points along with six rebounds and two assists. Webb managed a double-double as she scored 14 points and 11 rebounds. Locandro ended the night with eight points, seven rebounds, two blocks and made 66% of her shots from the field.
In order to prevent the possibility of Cal Poly taking that lead again, Inoue noted areas of improvement the team can work on in order to secure another win for the future.
“We need to do a better job of not fouling so much. We got a lot of charge calls because we couldn’t have body control. So we have to slow it down more and be more efficient in that sense. Just a couple tweaks here and there,” Inoue said.
Looking to secure another victory, the UCI Women’s Basketball team takes on Cal Poly again on Saturday, Jan. 23 at 3 p.m.
Malia Nazario is a staff writer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.