IRVINE — Cal State Dominguez Hills played Tuesday's exhibition game with the word D-E-F-E-N-S-E spelled across the back upper portion of their shorts.
For host UC Irvine, such a visible reminder about that phase of the game is no longer necessary.
Fourth-year UCI Coach Molly Goodenbour has drummed a defensive emphasis into her players and the results were clear in the Anteaters' 60-35 victory at Crawford Court.
UCI held the Toros, an NCAA Division II team, to two-for-24 field-goal shooting in the first half (8.3%), enabling the Big West Conference squad to build leads of 20-2 and 32-6 on the way to a 37-10 halftime bulge.
With UCI shuffling actively in its two-three zone, the Toros failed to produce a field goal in the opening 7:40 of the half, as well as the closing 7:49.
"I really liked our competitiveness and intensity," said Goodenbour, who admitted she learned little else about a lineup that featured just two returning starters. "We're such a different team without Jade [Smith-Williams, who graduated] and Mikah [Maly-Karros, who left the program]. Those were two cornerstones for the last two years. Now, we have to do things more as a team. I think I'm still trying to figure out who is good at what and how to put people in positions to be successful. But I thought there were a lot of good things tonight."
Among the pluses for UCI, coming off a 15-15 season, was the play of freshman Methlyn Onogonuho. The Etiwanda High product had a game-high 11 points on five-of-eight shooting from the field. The 5-foot-10 forward also had five rebounds and one steal.
"I thought [Onogonuho] used her explosiveness and got her hands on a lot of things, offensively and defensively," Goodenbour said. "She's still just relying on her athleticism. She still doesn't really know how to play yet."
Jasmine Bernard, a 6-0 sophomore forward, also stood out with 10 points and a team-best nine rebounds, while P.J. Hanson, a sophomore transfer from Point Loma Nazarene, had 10 points, three rebounds and three steals. Hanson was four of six from the field to help UCI finish 24 of 62 for 38.7%.
Goodenbour also praised junior point guard Anete Klintstone, a transfer from Jefferson Community College and a native of Latvia. She had four points, all from the free-throw line, and four assists, though she did not convert any of her eight field-goal tries.
"[Klintstone] didn't shoot the ball well, but I liked the job she did leadership-wise," Goodenbour said.
Sophomore Jacquelyn Marshall came off the bench to post nine points, three steals and four rebounds. She was two of three from three-point range.
Three-pointers by Marshall and Henson within a 60-second span helped UCI build the lead to 54-22 with 9:43 left.
The 'Eaters then got a little sloppy, allowing the Toros to close the deficit down the stretch.
Dominguez Hills, which finished 11 of 45 from the field (24.4%) had 27 turnovers.
But UCI had 24 turnovers.
"We didn't run a lot of sets tonight," Goodenbour said. "And we had too many turnovers, trying to play too fast and not making good decisions.
"Offensively, we have quite a bit of work to do."
UCI plays host to Concordia, an NAIA school, in another exhibition on Nov. 3, before opening the regular season at Portland State on Nov. 11.
UC Irvine 60, Cal State Dominguez Hills 35
CSDH – Heard 9, Brown 6, Hughes 3, Wilson 2, Boutte 7, Smith 2, Caffey 2, Hudson 2, Zugasti 2.
3-pt. goals – Heard 1, Boutte 1.
Fouled out – None.
UCI – Hanson 10, White 2, Cathey 0, Belen 6, Klinstone 4, Onogonuho 11, Bernard 10, Marshall 9, McCalister 6, Meggs 2.
3-pt. goals – Marshall 2, Hanson 1.
Fouled out – None.
Halftime – 37-10, UCI.