'Eaters struggles mount

LONG BEACH — When UC Irvine women's basketball coach Molly Goodenbour needs to relieve stress, brainstorm solutions and face frustrations, she usually goes for a run.

It is then no surprise that based on the last three weeks, the former Stanford star's cardio-vascular fitness is far superior to the play of her team.

In a 63-51 Big West Conference loss to Long Beach State on Saturday at Walter Pyramid, the Anteaters continued to struggle to close the distance between their potential and their performance.

It was the fifth straight loss for UCI (4-10, 0-2 in conference), which had won four of five before the skid.

Since its last victory, an 81-75 home triumph over Sacramento State on Dec. 11, the Anteaters have shot a combined 31.3% and averaged 51 points and 19.4 turnovers in five games.

"I don't think we're bad," said Goodenbour, whose team shot 36.2% from the field and committed 21 turnovers to fall to a 49ers squad that was picked to finish last in the preseason conference media poll. "I think we have players who are as competent as any of the teams we're playing. We just haven't been able to find a way to have those kids make the most out of the tools and skills that they have. We're trying to work on it."

Several missed layups, defensive breakdowns and a general lack of offensive flow were the leading shortcomings for UCI against Long Beach State (7-8, 2-0), which scored the game's first seven points, led, 13-2, and never trailed.

But Goodenbour said she remains encouraged about the intangibles her players continue to display.

"We do play hard, we just play really, really inefficiently," Goodenbour said. "We have a hard time putting the ball in the basket. We tried to increase the tempo of the game a little bit and get some scores out of transition, because we knew we'd struggle against Long Beach's changing zones in the halfcourt. I just got done telling [the players]: 'We're playing really hard. You've got nothing to hang your head about in terms of effort and intensity. We just have to find a way to be a more efficient basketball team.'"

Senior Kassandra McCalister, a two-guard trying to fill a void at point guard, led UCI with 12 points, six rebounds and two steals. But she was five of 16 from the field and had three turnovers to one assist.

Sophomore Jasmine Bernard had 11 points and four boards, but all five of her missed field-goal tries were within a step of the basket.

UCI's effort was apparent in its 38-37 rebounding advantage, as well as the 49ers' 19 turnovers. But the 'Eaters totaled seven assists to the hosts' 14.

"It still really just goes back to having a confident and assertive point guard leader," Goodenbour, a former point guard, said. "Kelly Meggs and [McCalister] are sharing that position and neither one is comfortable in it. They are still growing in that role and the better they are and the more leadership they can give us on the floor, the better we are as a group. We just haven't been as good as we need to be at that spot."

UCI's biggest scoring runs were a pair of five-point spurts in the opening half. The Anteaters' comeback efforts were also hurt by them converting just half of their 12 foul shots.

Freshman Methlyn Onogomuho had seven points, six rebounds and a team-best two assists, but her five turnovers tied for the most by an Anteater.

Junior Jazmyn White had nine points and two blocked shots, but just one rebound in 27 minutes.

Long Beach State, which has won four of its last five, had three scorers in double figures, led by freshman Alex Sanchez who scored 11 of her 18 points after halftime.

barry.faulkner@latimes.com

Twitter: @BarryFaulkner5

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Big West Conference

Long Beach State 63, UC Irvine 51

LBSU – Moorer 12, Ochiltree 11, Sanchez 18, Dooley 8, Meneses 3, Spargo 8. McDonald 2, Skorpen 1.

3-pt. goals – Spargo 2, Sanchez 2, Ochiltree 1.

Fouled out – None.

Technicals – None.

UCI – White 9, Onogomuho 7, McCalister 12, Meggs 3, Belen 2, Bernard 11, Klintsone 5, Marshall 2.

3-pt. goals – McCalister 1, White 1, Meggs 1.

Fouled out – Klintsone, Belen.

Techinicals – Goodenbour 1.

Halftime – 33-23, LBSU.

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