The UCI Women’s Basketball team (10-6, 8-2) defeated the CSU Fullerton Titans (2-15, 1-12), 71-58, at the Bren Events Center on Friday, Feb. 19.
After the cancellation of their original scheduled series against UC Riverside on Feb. 12-13, the Anteaters were eager to get back on the court. More so, UCI was hungry to make a comeback after losing their series-opening game against CSU Bakersfield on Feb. 5.
The first quarter opened with Anteater possession after winning the tipoff. Less than a minute into the game, redshirt freshman guard Chloe Webb secured two jumpers, putting UCI at an early lead 4-0. CSUF didn’t make it onto the scoreboard until nearly three minutes into the match with a free throw by senior forward Carolyn Gill following a foul from Webb.
UCI’s senior guard Alexus Seaton nailed a three-pointer at 7:30, increasing the Anteaters’ lead to 7-1. Shortly after, Gill responded with a three-pointer for the Titans. The two teams continued to butt heads as the game progressed featuring buckets made by UCI’s redshirt freshman guard Kayla Williams and senior guard Haleigh Talbert.
The Titan’s momentum was led by Gill, senior forward Joy Krupa and sophomore forward Kathryn Neff. With a little over four minutes remaining in the first quarter, UCI was up, 11-10.
Anteater sophomore center Melodie Kapinga, using her height and weight advantage, scored a layup at 3:05, pulling the Anteaters up 14-10. Subsequently, both teams had a three-pointer face-off led by CSUF’s freshman guard Bella Stratford, followed by UCI’s sophomore guard Jayde Cadee and ending with a three-pointer by CSUF’s freshman guard Gabi Vidmar. With less than a minute left, the score had jumped to 20-18.
At the sound of the buzzer, despite having control of the ball, UCI was unable to make a final basket before heading into the second quarter. At the completion of the first quarter, the Anteaters led with a score of 21-18.
The second quarter started off a bit sloppy for the Anteaters with five turnovers. However, Williams and Talbert scored with eight minutes remaining, increasing their lead to 25-18. After a few minutes, both teams were visibly slower to score, marked by many turnovers and missed jumpers.
Vidmar scored a back-to-back layup and three-pointer at 5:31 for the Titans, closing the score gap to 27-24. For the remaining three minutes, the two teams traded points back and forth, including baskets by Webb, sophomore forward Sophia Locandro and Krupa, making the score 30-26.
Both teams fought to get ahead in the remaining few minutes of the second quarter. Titan’s junior forward-center Madison Freemon scored her first few points in the game, as did UCI’s freshman guard Victoria Baker. The buzzer sounded shortly after Williams’ free throw with the Anteaters maintaining their lead, 36-30, at the end of the first half.
The beginning of the third quarter was marked by strong determination from CSU Fullerton as they found momentum to pick up the lead. Sophomore guard Anniken Frey scored her first layup of the night for the Titans, followed by Vidmar, shortening the score gap to 36-34 with eight minutes left in the quarter. Frey then nailed a three-pointer with an assist from Gill, causing the Titans to get a one-point lead with seven minutes remaining.
This huge energy shift from the Titans caught the Anteaters off guard and caused the Irvine team to lose their footing in the game, as they were unable to find the basket for several minutes. After a 0-10 shooting drought, freshman forward Caiyle Kaupu buried a free throw at 4:53, but the team was still down by three points. Locandro then scored a jumper, which brought the score to 40-41.
Despite the immense effort from lrvine’s leading players, Cadee and Baker, the Anteaters were unable to come back from losing their lead early on. The Titans were able to keep a firm grasp on their lead by two points, 45-47, going into the final quarter.
UCI’s Talbert scored a layup to open the fourth quarter, while drawing a foul. After she completed the three-point play, the Anteaters regained their lead, 48-47. Frey scored her 10th point of the night, followed by a three-pointer from Williams, bringing the score to 53-49 at 7:25.
The Anteaters then went on a 7-0 run, with baskets by Talbert and Locandro, bringing the score to 60-49. Neff, Freemon and Frey also found the basket for CSUF, shortening the score gap to six points with a little over three minutes remaining in the game.
Despite the Titans’ valiant efforts to regain their lead from the third quarter, UCI did a commendable job retaliating back. The team started off with strong shooting, and finished off the night at the final buzzer with Webb’s layup bringing the final score, 71-58, to close out night one of the series.
Overall, UCI ended the night with 12 turnovers, while the Titans had 18. The Anteaters managed to earn 25 points off these turnovers, while CSUF earned six. Frey led the Titans with 12 points, while Williams led the Anteaters with 14 points.
UCI head coach Tamara Inoue commented on the team’s third-quarter struggles.
“We were a second late to the ball, a second late to the rebound, a second late to guarding and we weren’t communicating,” Inoue said. “Then on our end, shooting 56% on free throws, we are a better team than that; it’s just focus. There are a lot of adjustments we need to work through before tomorrow, and hopefully we’ll saddle up and be ready to go.”
The Anteaters faced the Titans again on Saturday, Feb. 20 at 4 p.m. at the Bren Events Center and won 68-60. The Anteaters head to UC San Diego for a pair of Big West matchups at the RIMAC Arena on Feb. 26-27.
Harleen Thandi is a Sports Intern for the 2021 Winter Quarter. She can be reached at email@example.com.