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UC Irvine Women’s Basketball Falls to Hawaii in a Critical Big West Conference Matchup, 77-73

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The  University of Hawaii at Manoa Rainbow Wahine (5-7, 2-1) defeated the UC Irvine Anteaters (8-7, 3-1), 77-73, in a closely contested matchup at the Bren Events Center on Jan. 15.

The first quarter was mostly dominated by Hawaii, who ended the period with a 19-15 lead.

Graduate student forward Amy Atwell, a two-time Big West Women’s Basketball Player of the Week, led the way for the Rainbow Wahine with nine points in the quarter by shooting three out of five from the field and three for three from the free-throw line. Atwell finished the game with 20 points, three rebounds and two steals in 31 minutes of playing time. 

Atwell started the game off strong after scoring a layup in the paint following a steal by freshman forward Nnenna Orji, starting off the game with a 2-0 lead for Hawaii. With 7:20 left in the first quarter, Atwell connected on another layup for Hawaii. This made the score 4-5, with the Anteaters now in the lead. With 3:07 remaining in the quarter, Atwell scored again, following an assist from freshman forward Jacque David. This gave Hawaii a 13-10 lead. With 30 seconds left in the quarter, Atwell was fouled by sophomore guard Chloe Webb. Atwell connected on both free-throws, giving Hawaii the 19-15 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Webb had a decent game for UCI, recording 16 points, three rebounds, an assist, a block and two steals.

UC Irvine struggled early on in the second quarter as Hawaii freshman guard Daejah Phillips proved a challenge for the Anteaters. With 9:37 left in the second quarter, Phillips scored her first basket of the night to give Hawaii a 21-15 lead. Phillips also scored a three-pointer with 8:01 left in the quarter assisted by freshman guard Kelsie Imai, giving Hawaii a 26-17 lead. 

Imai also assisted Hawaii freshman guard Meilani McBee with the three-pointer, bumping Hawaii’s lead up to 29-17. Imai recorded eight points, four rebounds, three assists and four turnovers for the Rainbow Wahine. McBee added 15 points, two rebounds, an assist, a turnover, a block and a steal. 

With 1:48 left in the second quarter, Phillips scored two free-throws to give Hawaii their largest lead of the night of 16 points, 39-23.

However, UCI closed the half on a 9-0 run to cut the Hawaii lead down to five at the break.

Webb led the way for the Anteaters with nine points and a steal in the first half, followed by redshirt freshman guard Kayla Williams. Williams added eight points and three assists. 

The Anteaters started off slow again in the third quarter. With 7:32 left, Hawaii already had a 10-point advantage following two assists by Phillips, a three-pointer by McBee and a free throw by Atwell.

However, with 2:50 left in the quarter, UCI freshman guard Déja Lee made a three-pointer assisted by Webb to make it a three point game, 46-49.

With five seconds left in the quarter, Williams made a steal and scored an and-one jumper on the break, cutting Hawaii’s lead down to one. Hawaii still held a small advantage as both teams headed into the fourth quarter, 52-51.

UCI once again came out of the gates slow to open the fourth quarter. With five minutes left in the game, they found themselves trailing by eight, 65-57. 

However, Hawaii redshirt freshman guard Olivia Davies fouled Webb, who scored both free-throws, at 2:54. This cut the Hawaii lead down to only two points, 65-67. 

With 35 seconds left, Hawaii added a clutch jumper from Atwell and two free throws from Davies. With less than 30 seconds left, Phillips scored two free-throws for Hawaii and made the score, 75-67, in favor of the Rainbow Wahine. Webb made a three-pointer for UCI, cutting the lead down to five, 75-70. With the clock running out, Williams assisted graduate student forward Naomi Hunt with a three-pointer. This made the score 73-76, with four seconds left. 

UCI was then forced to foul as Atwell added one more free throw to her statline giving Hawaii the 77-73 victory.

The loss ended a three-game winning streak for UCI, and they look to bounce back when they visit Cal State Fullerton (6-7, 1-2) at the Titan Gym on Thursday, Jan. 20 at 7 p.m. The game can be streamed live on ESPN+, with live stats accessed here.

Marcos Gonzalez is a Sports Staff Writer. He can be reached at marcosg9@uci.edu.