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UCI Women’s Basketball Falls Short in their Second Match Against Long Beach, 80-62

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The UCI Women’s Basketball team (13-8, 11-4) lost to Long Beach State (12-8, 11-7) 80-62 at the Bren Events Center to split their two-game series on Saturday, March 6.

This game marked the final game of the regular season for the Anteaters before the 2021 Air Force Reserve Big West Women’s Basketball Championship, presented by the Hawaiian Islands, next week. The Anteaters also celebrated their five seniors in a pre-game ceremony held without spectators.

The Beach won the opening tip-off and redshirt junior forward Naomi Hunt started off the night sinking a three-pointer to put LBSU on the board 3-0. Redshirt junior guard Ma’Qhi Berry followed with a jumper, giving the Beach a great offensive start that set the tone for the rest of the game.

Meanwhile, UCI struggled to put up a shot attempt, turning over the ball three times in a minute and a half of gameplay. Senior guard Haleigh Talbert broke that trend by nailing a jumper assisted by sophomore forward Sophia Locandro, putting UCI on the board.

Long Beach continued to play with energy thanks to baskets from Hunt, sophomore guard Kristyna Jeskeova and junior guard Justina King, which put them up 11-2. UCI’s redshirt freshman guard Chloe Webb led the offensive charge with six points in the next few minutes, shortening the Beach’s lead to 16-10 with three minutes left in the quarter.

The Beach responded with free throws from King and junior guard/forward Jasmine Hardy, regaining a comfortable lead of 20-10. Soon after, UCI freshman forward Caiyle Kaupu got her first two points with a layup assisted by senior center Tahlia Garza, who played her final game at the Bren.

The two teams traded several shots back and forth, but UCI was unable to keep up with Long Beach, who ended the quarter leading 24-14.

Hunt opened the second quarter with a jumper, making the score 26-15 just a minute in the new quarter. Redshirt freshman guard Kayla Williams scored her first and only three-pointer of the night with an assist from Webb. 

The two teams went the next couple of minutes without scoring after Berry’s jumper at 8:16 until King found the basket putting the Beach up 33-18. UCI struggled to move the ball quick enough, resulting in too many turnovers that the Beach converted into points.

After a foul from LBSU’s freshman guard Patricia Chung, UCI’s freshman guard Victoria Baker made both her free throws, shortening the score gap. Garza also put herself on the board with a layup assisted by Webb. Despite their valiant efforts, the Anteaters were unable to match Long Beach’s energy for the remainder of the quarter. They did, however, end on a 10-2 run to finish the first half, but the score still favored the Beach, 43-29.

In the overall first half, UCI struggled to find the basket and find their offensive ground, resulting in Long Beach outplaying them. UCI had issues keeping possession of the ball, leading them to finish the half with 12 turnovers. 

LBSU freshman guard Savannah Tucker nailed a jumper to start off the third quarter. UCI sophomore guard Jayde Cadee answered back with her first basket of the night, a three-pointer, making the score 47-32. However, Baker, Hunt, Berry and Hardy successfully converted more buckets to increase the Beach lead to 53-34 with six minutes left on the clock.

The Anteaters began to find a bit of a groove offensively as the quarter went on. Cadee scored two more triples, along with baskets from Talbert and Williams. However, Long Beach responded by outpacing the home team with a flurry of shots from the field. Talbert’s three-pointer came a little too late as the quarter’s buzzer sounded with Long Beach ahead 63-47.

UCI’s sophomore center Melodie Kapinga opened the last quarter with her first layup, bringing the score to 63-49. King answered back with a wide-open three at 8:18. Long Beach continued scoring while Irvine experienced an almost four-minute scoring drought.

Garza broke UCI’s scoreless streak with a layup assisted by Talbert at 5:54, which brought the score to 69-51. Following that, the Anteaters could not get a shot to fall and made 21 turnovers total.

Long Beach displayed great defensive and offensive skills the entirety of the game, taking advantage of UCI’s sloppiness. The fourth quarter ended with the Beach’s victory, 80-62, over the Anteaters.

Hunt led Long Beach in scoring with 21 points while Cadee led the Anteaters with 12. Webb had a career-high of five assists and scored 11 points.

UCI head coach Tamara Inoue commented on the team progressing to next week’s conference championships in the post-game interview.

“Right now, it’s about momentum going into Vegas,” Coach Inoue said. “Today is tough and we’ll watch film as we always do. We have to regroup and get back at it. It’s going to be a tough battle, so we’re looking forward to it.”

UCI will head to Las Vegas for the 2021 Air Force Reserve Big West Women’s Basketball Championship on March 9-13. UCI will be the No. 2 seed in the bracket and will face No. 7 seed UCSB on Wednesday March 10 at 5 p.m. at Michelob Ultra Arena.

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