The UC Irvine women's basketball team couldn't have had more fun during its previous Big West Conference tournament appearance. The Anteaters won the tournament title and went to the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history last season.
But Irvine's latest trip ended quickly and unpleasantly. New Mexico State defeated Irvine, 60-55, Thursday night in a first-round game in front of 1,049 at the Lawlor Events Center on the Nevada campus. The Aggies play Hawaii in one semifinal today.
"I'm very proud of the season we had," said Anteater Coach Colleen Matsuhara, whose team finished the season 12-16. "We overcame a lot of adversity, and I told [the players] not to hang their heads because we have nothing to be ashamed of."
Forward Leticia Oseguera had game-highs with 22 points and 16 rebounds for the sixth-seeded Anteaters. Oseguera set a single-season school rebounding record, finishing with 299. Center Allah-mi Basheer, the only other Anteater to scored in double figures, had 12 points.
Third-seeded New Mexico State (20-9) was led by guard Rebecca Fresquez, who scored a team-high 20 points. Fresquez broke the tournament record for three-point field goals with six in 10 attempts.
Led by the play of forward Anita Maxwell, the Aggies took a 39-23 halftime lead. Maxwell, recently selected player of the year for the third time, had 13 points and eight rebounds at the half.
But Irvine made defensive adjustments that helped limit Maxwell to only two points in the second half. Irvine slowly cut the lead but couldn't overtake New Mexico State because of poor shooting. Irvine made only 37.3% of its field-goal attempts.
"We are the defending champions, so we wanted to come here and do the same," Matsuhara said. "If we had played the first half like we played the second, I think the outcome might have been different."