IRVINE — UC Irvine women's basketball coach Molly Goodenbour took a step back Tuesday night, anxious to see just how far her players had moved forward from a 9-21 record last season.
For the most part, she liked what she saw in the Anteaters' 84-71 exhibition victory over NAIA representative Concordia at the Bren Events Center.
UCI, which relied heavily on first-team All-Big West Conference performer Mikah Maly-Karros, as well as point guard Jade Smith-Williams to carry the offensive load last season, produced five double-figure scorers to eventually overwhelm the Eagles.
Junior starter Kiara Belen, whose scored 41 points in 16 appearances last season, all off the bench, had 11 of her team-leading 18 points in the opening half, when UCI made 20 of 30 field-goal attempts to seize a 45-39 advantage.
But UCI cooled off early after intermission, making just eight of its first 28 second-half field goal tries to allow Concordia to claim a 65-64 lead with 8:27 left.
The 'Eaters, who lost eight games by six or fewer points last season, including five games by three or fewer points, had scoring contributions from six players from that point on to outscore the Eagles, 20-6, down the stretch. They scored more than 84 points only once last season (an 87-73 win against Eastern Washington).
"We always had a bad part in our second half [last season], where we thought [heck] we can't get there," said Belen, who added eight rebounds. "Now, we have that extra push to just finish. It's all about the last four or five minutes of the game; who is in shape and who wants it more."
Maly-Karros, a junior, finished with 15 points and a game-high 11 rebounds, while Smith-Williams, a senior, had 16 points, five assists and only one turnover.
Jazmyn White, the Big West Freshman of the Year last season, chipped in 14 points and eight rebounds, while sophomore Cheyenne Cathey had 12 points off the bench, making all six of her field-goal attempts. Cathey added six boards.
UCI's ability to attack the basket, several times in transition, produced 50.8% shooting from the field. The hosts also made 20 of 28 free throws to help counter missing all nine of their three-point tries.
Concordia was nine of 27 from three-point range and its 14 turnovers were two fewer than the hosts. The Eagles finished 36.1% from the field (26 of 72).
"I liked that we had good [scoring] balance, which I thought we would," said Goodenbour, who noted she purposely did not provide her typical hands-on sideline help, hoping to see how her players could fend for themselves. "I think we have a lot of things that we need to work on. We especially have some things to sort out on defense right now. I'm concerned about our defense."
Freshman Jacqueline Marshall, a transfer from San Diego, had five points and five rebounds, but was two for 10 from the field, including four misses on three-point attempts.
Concordia senior Patrice Hunter produced most of her game-high 21 points on five three-pointers to help keep the Eagles in it.
"I thought Concordia did a great job of handling pressure, moving the ball, spreading the floor and playing with poise," Goodenbour said. "I'd much rather have a game like this [in which] we get a little pressure and feel like each possession matters. That is what a preseason game should be like."
UC Irvine 84, Concordia 71
Concordia – Carney 14, Wallace 4, Hunter 21, Fu 10, Priest 4, Auberry 7, Howard 6, Lange 4, Henry 1.
3-pt. Goals – Hunter 5, Fu 2, Howard 2.
Fouled out – None.
Technicals – None.
UCI – Belen 18, White 14, Maly-Karros 15, Smith-Williams 16, Marshall 5,Cathey 12, Butler 2, Theus 2.
3-pt.goals – None.
Fouled out – None.
Technicals – None.