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HomeSportsBasketballUCI Women’s Basketball Dominates Westcliff to Open the Season, 114-53

UCI Women’s Basketball Dominates Westcliff to Open the Season, 114-53

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The UCI Women’s Basketball team (1-0) cruised through their season opener in a wire-to-wire victory over the Westcliff Warriors (0-1) at the Bren Events Center on Tuesday, Nov. 9. 

The Anteaters were in rhythm early as they went on a 16-0 scoring run to begin the game. UCI freshman guard Olivia Williams scored nine points during this run with a couple of three-pointers and an and-1 layup. Westcliff got on the board four minutes into the game after a four-point play.

To counter UCI’s hot offense, the Warriors switched to a 2-3 zone; however, this proved to be a faulty solution as high-low passing got the Anteaters easy buckets in the paint. UCI was met with very little resistance on offense and on the defensive end — they stifled Westcliff’s offense. Westcliff’s perimeter players were unable to penetrate; on the rare occasion when they were able to get inside the paint, they were stopped by UCI’s skyscraping sophomore forward Sophia Locandro.

Combined with their hustle on the boards and poor Warrior shot selection, UCI locked down Westcliff as they led 32-11 after the first quarter.

The second quarter was more of the same for the Anteaters; they played phenomenal defense. Whenever Westcliff’s zone collapsed in the paint, UCI passed the ball out to open shooters. In addition, UCI junior center Melodie Kapinga caused havoc on the boards to create second chance opportunities for the Anteaters. Kapinga finished with a double-double — 11 points and 10 rebounds, eight of them being offensive. 

By halftime, UCI led 58-30 highlighted by 10 three-pointers — three from graduate forward Naomi Hunt and two from Williams — and 27 points from the bench.

The Anteaters were not content with just holding the lead. After the half, they increased their level of intensity: diving for loose balls, crashing the offensive glass and keeping the Warriors out of the paint. Westcliff would remain scoreless until the six minute mark in the third quarter after a jumper from junior guard Trinity Vasquez, who finished with 11 points on 5-25 shooting.

UCI head coach Tamara Inoue was experimenting with her defense as they were now switching all screens, and this caused even greater difficulty for Westcliff to score. The switch-heavy defensive scheme worked out as the Warriors only managed to score nine points in the quarter.

“[Playing] man-to-man, with our size and our height, we could switch a lot this year,” Inoue said.

The Anteaters finished with 10 steals, nine blocks and held the Warriors to 30.1% shooting. Senior guard Laura Tapia led Westcliff in scoring with 16 points, and senior forward Bailey Hawkin added 12 points and seven rebounds.

By the fourth quarter, Inoue managed to get every player on the roster minutes during the game, all of them scored. Despite having a comfortable lead, UCI’s bench was engaged and active with hyping up their teammates. The bench finished the game with 66 points, led by freshman guard Nikki Tom’s 13 points.

As a team, the Anteaters shot 56.6% from the field and knocked down 13 of their 23 attempted three-pointers.

“It’s always an emphasis [to shoot three-pointers]; it’s the way we like to play,” Inoue said. “Having our bench points being 66 is also a positive for us.”

UCI successfully defended the Bren against the Southern Utah Thunderbirds on Veteran’s Day, 81-65. 

Looking ahead, the Anteaters will finish their homestand against the San Diego State Aztecs on Sunday, Nov. 14. 

Angus Wong is a Sports Intern for the fall 2021 quarter. He can be reached at anguscw@uci.edu.