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Stafford Sets School Records for Assists as UCI Wins

TIMES STAFF WRITER

It was a game that meant little to the UC Irvine women’s basketball team, yet it meant a lot.

Behind the play of point guard Megan Stafford, the Anteaters crushed Cal State Fullerton, 80-58, in their Big West Conference finale Thursday at the Bren Center. The victory clinched second place in the Western Division heading into next week’s conference tournament. It also wiped out a bad memory.

The loss eliminated Fullerton (10-15, 5-9) from a spot in the conference tournament.

“They pretty much demolished us at their place,” Stafford said. “That was the worst game we played all season.”

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The Anteaters (14-12, 9-6) and Stafford came up with one of their best Thursday. It helped erase the memory of the 79-55 loss to Fullerton on Jan. 23, Irvine’s worst defeat of season.

Stafford set a school record with 15 assists, giving her a school single-season record with 140. Stafford also had 12 points and four steals.

“This goes back to when we first were recruiting her and we feel a lot of people overlooked her,” Coach Colleen Matsuhara said. “I hope we see a lot of these type of games from her.”

Stafford made five of 10 shots, but it was her passing that did the most damage. Four Anteaters scored in double figures, led by Leticia Oseguera, who had 15 points. Irvine shot 56.5% from the field and had a season-high in points.

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Irvine got 31 points off the bench, including 15 from Princess Hatcher and seven from Nikole Payton, both season highs.

The Anteaters had to rally late in the first half, but led, 43-36, at halftime.

Payton, who averages 1.2 points on the season, hit a three-pointer with six minutes left in the first half that began an 18-6 run that brought the Anteaters from behind. Fullerton had led by as many as eight points in the first half and was up, 30-25, when Payton hit the three.

Irvine scored 12 consecutive points. Stafford scored four points and had assists on the other two baskets, including a layup by Kirsten Cappel that gave Irvine a 32-30 lead. The Anteaters never trailed again.

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In another Big West game:

Long Beach State 80, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo 63--Toby Metoyer scored 20 points, including making 10 of 11 free throws, for host Long Beach State (10-15, 7-7).


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