IRVINE — There are plenty who would forgive Molly Goodenbour for reflecting on the past. In her third season as the UC Irvine women's basketball coach, Goodenbour is 29-52. The two years previous to that, she was 52-11 guiding Chico State, and her playing career includes helping Stanford win the 1992 NCAA crown, when she was named MVP of the Final Four.
But Goodenbour's thoughts have ambled further into her past, these days, as she considers a possible solution to a rough patch that has included three straight Big West Conference home losses. The latest of those was a 91-72 drubbing at the hands of UC Davis on Saturday that dropped the Anteaters (12-8, 4-4 in conference) from a three-way tie for third into sole possession of fifth in the nine-team conference.
"If we played six-on-six, we'd be great," said Goodenbour, who played the now-outlawed system during her junior high school days in Iowa, where the six-on-six scheme — that allowed three players to play exclusively on offense, with three others only on defense — was still used at the high school level into the early 1990s.
"Right now, we have some players who can play defense and not help us so much, offensively," Goodenbour said. "And we have some players who can play offensively, but not help us as much defensively. Our challenge is to try to blend those to be able to have the right combination on the floor, so that we don't suffer on either end."
There was suffering at both ends against the Aggies, who found equal offensive cohesion against the Anteaters' man-to-man and 2-1-2 zone defenses.
UC Davis (15-5, 5-3), ranked No. 10 in the CollegeInsider.com mid-major poll, particularly excelled after halftime, when it shot 51.6% from the field and made half of its 12 three-point attempts to finish 12 of 26 from beyond the arc for the game.
The Aggies, who play the same zone defense employed by UCI, forced 16 turnovers, twice as many as they committed. And while the visitors buried shots from the perimeter, including a five-for-five three-point performance in the second half by Davis sophomore guard Vicky Deely, they also dissected the UCI defense efficiently enough to post a 34-18 scoring advantage in the paint.
UCI, meanwhile, was six for 23 from three-point range (26.1%) and finished 28 of 60 from the field (46.7%) overall.
"Offensively, I thought [the Aggies] were in a great rhythm tonight," Goodenbour said of a Davis attack that had 23 assists. "Defensively, we were not up top par with where they're at right now with their offense. Davis does a nice job with its system, offensively and defensively."
UCI, Goodenbour said, has too few two-way players. She said offensive catalysts Kassandra McCalister and Tayler Champion, who had nine and 14 points, respectively in 30 combined minutes off the bench, can't crack a starting lineup in need of some offense, because the two Oregon State transfers are struggling to grasp Goodenbour's defensive demands.
"Absolutely," Goodenbour said when asked if defense was the reason why McCalister and Champion were still coming off the bench. "They must improve their defensive effort, intensity and consistency. As much as they give us on offense, right now, they give up twice as much defensively."
Champion had 11 points in nine first-half minutes, when she netted all four of her field-goal attempts.
Junior Mikah Maly-Karros, a staple offensively all season for the 'Eaters, made four of her five field-goal tries before halftime, on her way to a team-high 15 points on seven-of-11 shooting from the field. Maly-Karros, who came in ranked No. 4 nationally with 13 double-doubles in her previous 19 games, had six rebounds to go with two assists and four turnovers.
UCI senior point guard Jade Smith-Williams had nine assists and nine points and was frequently shuffled on defense to match up with whichever Aggie had the hottest hand from outside.
"We knew who their shooters were and we made it very clear what we needed to do to defend those shooters," Goodenbour said. "We just had some mental breakdowns and left people open. That's the sign of a young team.
Deely finished six for six from the field and eight for eight from the foul line to post a career-high 23 points in nearly 15 perfect minutes off the bench.
Big West Conference
UC Davis 91, UC Irvine 72
UCD – Mintun 12, Meggison 15, Riecks 14, Heintz 8, Asano 1, Deely 25, Stephens 7, Shinoda 5, Juric 4.
3-pt. goals – Deely 5, Riecks 2, Meggison 2, Mintun 1, Stephens 1, Shinoda 1.
Fouled out – None.
Technicals – None.
UCI – Maly-Karros 15, White 8, Belen 0, Smith-Williams 9, Meggs 8, Champion 14, McCalister 9, Marshall 8, Barnes 1.
3-pt. goals – Champion 2, Meggs 2, McCalister 1, Smith-Williams 1.
Fouled out – None.
Technicals – None.
Halftime – UCD, 42-35.