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HomeSportsBasketballUC Irvine Women’s Basketball Takes Down UC San Diego, 59-44

UC Irvine Women’s Basketball Takes Down UC San Diego, 59-44

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The UC Irvine Women’s Basketball team (8-6, 3-0) defeated the UC San Diego Tritons (5-7, 2-1), 59-44, at the RIMAC Arena in La Jolla on Jan. 11. This win propels Irvine to the top of the Big West and marks UCI’s first 3-0 start to conference play in 11 years.

Despite lacking three starters and two of their top scorers, the team quickly jumped  to a 14-2 lead in the first five minutes. Their full court press and constant off-ball movement flabbergasted the Tritons from early on.

As the clock wound down at the end of the first quarter, San Diego head coach Hedi VanDerveer called a time out with only five minutes to go. Though the players remained the same after this timeout, two entirely different teams emerged.

Suddenly, Irvine’s offense fell flat, and movement went from purposeful to meandering. The Triton defense began to gel, stifling drives and contesting every jumper.

San Diego went on a 10-0 run, holding the Anteaters scoreless for 10 whole minutes. Still, the ‘Eater defense remained alive, making it difficult for UCSD to  scratch and scrape for the slightest offensive opportunity. 

One player seemed to be above this struggle: Triton sophomore forward Aisha Brown. She played an effortless, menacing game, dominating both team’s rims with a mix of deft positioning and tenacity. Her 18 points, 17 rebounds, and six blocks showcased her pure athleticism especially on just one day’s rest. 

By half time, the game had swung 15 points in San Diego’s favor, 20-23.

Irvine improved their strategy in the third quarter by ramping up their defensive aggression and landing a few 3-pointers. Still, they seemed at a complete loss on how to handle Brown.

Slowly but surely, the Anteaters built up their momentum, stringing together productive possessions and defensive stops. The real revelation would come from a return to the team’s previous offensive formula from the match’s first five minutes: movement.

The player who exemplified this best was Irvine freshman guard Nikki Tom. Her constant off-ball movement, curling off screens and cutting to the basket, generated both good shots for herself and her teammates. She secured three crucial three-pointers and consistently shut down nascent Triton runs.

Eventually, under the pressure of all that new-found ‘Eater movement, the Tritons faltered. Their staunch defense in the last two quarters was reduced to heroics by Brown, which proved to be insufficient.

The Anteaters pounced, racking up a total of 23 points in the final quarter and finishing the game with a comfortable lead.

Despite being down five total players from the ‘Eater roster, the Irvine team proved their resiliency in this match. Even with  such an inspired performance by Brown, Irvine reigned victorious.

Next, the Anteaters will host the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors in Irvine at the Bren Events center on Jan 15.

Benjamin Hendricks is a 2021-2022 Sports Staff Writer . He can be reached at bahendr1@uci.edu.