UC Irvine Women’s Basketball (8-6, 5-1) took a devastating loss against the Cal State Bakersfield Roadrunners (7-6, 5-4), 73-68, at the Icardo Center making this their first loss in the Big West Conference on Friday, Feb. 5.
After returning to the mainland with a win from the University of Hawaii at Mānoa, the Anteaters were able to preserve their undefeated conference season. However, CSUB swooped in and undermined the Anteaters.
The game tipped off with Bakersfield in control of the ball leading to the CSUB team securing the first shot of the night with a layup made by junior forward Miracle Saxon. It was obvious that the Roadrunners were aware of the offensive capabilities of UCI redshirt freshman guard Kayla Williams and kept a tight defense against her. CSUB also held a hard defense against senior guard Haleigh Talbert who was the leading rebounder in the Anteater’s latest game against Hawaii.
Sophomore forward Sophia Locandro was the first scorer on the Anteater’s side, making a jumper and gaining the first two points for her team. Shortly after, Talbert was able to secure a three-pointer for the Anteaters, allowing UCI to take the lead, 5-4. Both teams exchanged jumpers in the subsequent minutes, completed by CSUB’s redshirt junior Jayden Eggleston followed by UCI’s sophomore guard Chloe Webb, making the score 7-6. Locandro was then able to further the Anteater lead by completing two free throws followed by a three-pointer by Williams.
With their four-point lead, 12-8, the game was looking good for the Anteaters until foul trouble struck, coupled with some travel mistakes. These minor mistakes from Irvine allowed the Roadrunners to slowly catch up with UCI. With their newfound energy and speed, the CSUB team was able to make up for lost time and the Anteaters simply could not keep up.
Bakersfield gained three points solely off of free throws completed by freshman shooting guard Sage Bridges and sophomore point guard Lexus Green. Then, Saxon secured a jumper in the paint for the CSUB team which was closely followed by a jumper made by UCI’s Williams. Bakersfield quickly took the ball down the court and secured another jumper completed by Green making the score 14-17.
With 14 seconds left in the quarter, Williams managed two more points through free throws. However, it wasn’t enough to get back their lead and Irvine trailed behind by two points, 16-18, at the end of the first quarter.
Irvine had a rough start in the second quarter as CSUB’s Eggleston scored first extending the Roadrunners’ lead by two more points. Eggleston secured a free throw making the score 16-21.
The Anteaters then fell into a scoring drought for over four minutes allowing the Roadrunners to gain 12 more points through three-pointers and free throws.
In those minutes, redshirt junior guard Jasmin Dixon scored two straight threes for CSUB. After the Roadrunners accumulated a 17 point lead, senior guard Dani Guglielmo finally ended the UCI scoring drought with a three-pointer with about five minutes left in the second quarter.
Williams followed with another three for the Anteaters, regaining momentum for the Irvine team. This new found energy paired with tough defense from the Anteaters began to close the scoring gap. Bakersfield started to get into foul trouble allowing the Anteaters to slowly get back into the game. Talbert was a major contributor to UCI’s partial comeback, scoring a three-pointer and two free throws, making the score 37-31.
Noticing the increased momentum from Irvine, CSUB decided to slow the game down and felt comfortable doing so with the lead they still held. Despite their efforts, Haleigh Talbert was no match for the time clock, scoring another three with only six seconds left, leading UCI only three behind before going into halftime at 37-34.
In the third quarter, senior guard Alexus Seaton tied up the game for the Anteaters with a quick three. Throughout the quarter, the Anteaters and Roadrunners traded points back and forth with the leads only one point ahead of the other.
It was not until Williams — already with 18 points in the game — and senior center Tahlia Garza extended UCI’s lead to seven points, 54-47 with three minutes left on the clock. However, this did not shake CSUB who shortened the lead to 56-54 by the end of the quarter.
The fourth quarter was either teams’ game and was the determining factor on who would come out on top. Almost immediately, Bakersfield’s Green scored a three allowing her team to gain the lead once more at 57-56. The Anteaters experienced great frustration on the court due to foul trouble and poor execution on passes and shots.
UCI had trouble keeping up with the confident pace the Roadrunners brought. However, they did put up a fight with Talbert closing the gap with a five-point difference, 58-63 with 5:17 remaining on the clock.
Locandro, Webb, and Seaton all had an opportunity at the free-throw line. Unfortunately, the team was unable to fully convert their shots to gain momentum. This resulted in the Anteaters staring at their first loss of the season 73-65.
In the UCI postgame interview, head coach Tamara Inoue commented on her team’s performance.
“We weren’t aggressive; we just let them take the ball down the floor. Then, with rebounding, we didn’t pursue which is frustrating. We dug ourselves out of a hole and then in the second half we didn’t battle back,” Coach Inoue said.
The coach talked about the team’s strengths and weaknesses in the game, following with how the team could learn from it and succeed next time.
“We were playing well,” Coach Inoue said. “We were moving the ball and defending, and pushing in transition. Then in the fourth quarter, it didn’t seem like we were coming after it, and after a couple calls we started to get timid which can’t happen. We need to keep playing through it.”
The Anteaters play the CSUB Roadrunners once more on Saturday, Feb. 6 at 4 p.m. at the Icardo Center.
Malia Nazario is a staff writer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.