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UCI Women’s Basketball Earns a Second Night Win Against the UCSD Tritons, 64-58

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The UCI Women’s Basketball team (12-7, 10-3) beat the UC San Diego Tritons (5-8, 5-8) 64-58 at the RIMAC Arena to split their two-game series on Saturday, Feb. 27.

UCSD received their first victory against UCI during game one of the series on Feb. 26. The Anteaters headed into their second game missing senior guard Haleigh Talbert and senior guard Alexus Seaton after both left game one with injuries.

The Anteaters started off the first quarter winning the tip-off, but were unable to score the first basket. Triton junior guard Brianna Claros opened the game with a three-pointer, putting UCSD at an early lead, 3-0. UCI didn’t make it onto the scoreboard until almost three minutes into the game with a three-pointer by senior guard Dani Guglielmo, making the score 3-5.

Anteater freshman forward Caiyle Kaupu broke the tie after redshirt freshman guard Kayla Williams’s freethrows, putting the Anteaters up 8-5 with seven minutes left. Both teams traded baskets as UCI’s Williams and freshman guard Victoria Baker completed beautiful hoops while UCSD’s junior guard/forward Sydney Brown responded back with her own shot. After their mini-battle, the score was 12-7 with five minutes remaining.

However, for three minutes, both teams were unable to find the bottom of the net as they faced a scoring drought. Finally, with 2:40 on the clock, Triton’s senior guard Tyla Turner broke the dry spell with a freethrow after being fouled by sophomore forward Sophia Locandro. 

The Anteaters played a sloppy offense as they missed 10 of their last 11 shots. UCSD’s Brown then nailed a triple, which shortened UCI’s lead to one, 12-11, with a minute left on the clock.

Luckily, Baker managed to make one of her two free throws after a foul from Brown, ending the Anteaters’ 5:36 scoreless streak, shortly followed by the finishing buzzer. At the end of the first quarter, the Anteaters led with a score of 13-11.

Both teams experienced a slow start heading into the second quarter. UCI’s first-quarter struggles carried over as they could not find a single basket. 

A mid-range jumper from Triton junior guard Julia Macabuhay tied the game up, 13-13, at 7:41, but soon entered another drought for the next minute. However, they slowly picked up the pace once Brown converted an and-one play after scoring a jumper while drawing a foul, UCSD pulled ahead 16-13. Baker responded with a three-pointer, tying the game again, 16-16, with about six minutes left.

In the low-scoring second quarter, UCI only scored four points in the last seven minutes of the game. A layup from Williams at 4:35 led the Anteaters to regain their lead by two points, 18-16. 

After trading shots and fouls, two triples from Brown put the Tritons back on top, 25-23, with a little over two minutes remaining.

Anteaters’ senior center Tahlia Garza cut the gap to one point following her first layup at 2:06. However, Macabuhay scored a clean jumper at the final buzzer, placing UCSD at a three-point lead, 28-25, heading into the second half.

This was the second night UCI trailed coming off of the first half with their less than ideal shooting situation. Williams led the Anteaters with eight points and four steals, while Brown led the Tritons with 17 points and six rebounds.

Redshirt freshman guard Chloe Webb started the third quarter strong with a layup and freethrow to complete a three-point play, creating another tie at 28 each. Locandro regained UCI’s lead with a layup at 9:20. Triton freshman guard Parker Montgomery and UCI’s Garza fought to take the lead, resulting in UCI up by one point, 32-31, with seven minutes left on the clock.

Soon after, the Anteaters finally found their foothold in the game as they went on an 8-1 run. With baskets from Williams and Turner, the score jumped to 41-33. The two teams continued scoring until UCI held their largest lead of the night, 47-37, after Kaupu’s free throws with 0:26 remaining. 

The quarter ended with a layup at the buzzer from Brown and UCI maintained their lead 47-39 heading into the final quarter of the game. UCI managed to outscore the Tritons by 13 points in the third quarter, regaining their shooting confidence. 

Brown opened the fourth quarter with a quick layup, decreasing UCI’s lead 47-41. UCI found themselves in a pinch on the defensive end as UCSD went on an 8-0 run in the first three minutes. A layup from Turner brought the game to another tie, 47-47, with six minutes remaining. UCSD erased the Anteaters’ 10 point lead from the third quarter in a matter of minutes.

Baker drained her second triple of the evening, allowing the Anteaters to briefly pull ahead, but was followed closely by a three from Claros, tying the game, 52-52, with less than five minutes left. With the game tight, Locandro scored five points in less than a minute, bumping the score 59-55.

Despite a hard-fought effort from UCSD, they were unable to connect their shots, while the Anteaters seemed to have found a scoring rhythm. 

UCI collected a much-needed victory, securing their number 2 seed position, as the final buzzer sounded with UCI winning 64-58.

Williams led the Anteaters in scoring with 16 points while Brown led the Tritons with 21. Garza earned her 100th career block, putting her in sixth place in blocking in UCI history. 

UCI and UCSD both had 13 turnovers as UCI converted nine points from them while UCSD capitalized off 12. The game was paint-dominant as UCSD outscored UCI 24-18 inside the key, while UCI outrebounded UCSD 46-44.

“I just can’t say enough about Tahlia [Garza], the way she believes in us and believes in me,” UCI head coach Tamara Inoue said in the post-game interview. “I’m hard on her, but she bounces back and comes out and proves herself every time. I think that stems from a good high school program and her ability to perform. I’m really proud of Tahlia.”

UCI will return to the Bren Events Center to finish out the regular season against Long Beach State on March 5-6. 

Harleen Thandi is a Sports Intern for the 2021 Winter Quarter. She can be reached at hthandi@uci.edu.