Women's Basketball: UCI fails to finish

IRVINE — UC Irvine women's basketball coach Doug Oliver has seen the scoring droughts from his team throughout the season.

A four-game winning streak headed into Thursday night's crucial Big West Conference game against UC Davis still provided confidence to the Anteaters.

A six-minute stretch at the end of that game probably took some of it away.

There was no opportunity for the 'Eaters to shoot themselves out of the latest scoring drought. The final buzzer sounded first, as the Aggies ended the game with 13 unanswered points to shock the hosts, 47-43, at the Bren Events Center.

UC Irvine, which is trying to finish in the top eight in conference to qualify for the Big West Tournament, fell into a tie for eighth place with Cal State Fullerton. Had the Anteaters (9-18, 5-10 in conference) won Thursday, they would have been alone in seventh, ahead of UC Davis (12-15, 7-9).

Instead, the Anteaters now will need to pull off some upsets to make the tournament. Their difficult three remaining regular-season games include tilts at home against first-place Pacific on Saturday, then on the road against second-place Cal Poly San Luis Obispo on Thursday and fourth-place UC Santa Barbara on March 9.

UC Irvine, which had won five of six games since an 0-8 start to conference play, will need to avoid any long scoring droughts in those games.

"That's how we've played most of the season," Oliver said. "We sort of struggle offensively, and then we find our way at some point. In the last few games, that's what we've done to feel better about ourselves for 20 minutes … At this time of the year, in March, you can't do that and expect to win."

UCI appeared ready to win against Davis. The Anteaters took a 43-34 lead on a pair of free throws by junior point guard Jennifer Tsurumoto with 5:45 left. The lead looked good, even with sophomore forward Camille Buckley (seven points, 15 rebounds) on the bench with four fouls.

But UCI wouldn't score again, and Davis rallied. The Aggies used a jumper from their leading scorer, Sydnee Fipps , then three straight three-pointers, two by guard Cortney French, to take a 45-43 lead with 3:21 remaining.

The Anteaters had chances to come back in the final two minutes. But a layup and jumper by junior Jasmine Bernard, who scored a team-high 13 points off the bench, were off the mark. And an open three-pointer from the corner by guard Kelly Meggs rimmed out with 54 seconds left.

UC Davis missed a layup on the other end, giving UCI another try. But Bernard's shot in the lane missed again with 14 seconds left, and Buckley fouled out going for the offensive rebound. Davis' Molly Greubel made both ends of the one-and-one to push the lead to four, and the 'Eaters didn't get another good look in the final seconds.

Fipps, a sophomore forward who is second in the conference in scoring, was held to a season-low three points in the teams' first meeting, a 70-57 UCI victory on Feb. 2. She had a game-high 19 points for the visitors Thursday. The barrage included five three-pointers, four of which came in the second half.

"As people saw tonight, she's very capable," Oliver said. "She's a shooter and a scorer. With under 10 minutes, we went to a box-and-one to try to slow her down. We just couldn't put any points on the board. It was too bad, because we actually had a good effort, as far as intensity and hustle. But I give [UC Davis] a lot of credit. We dominated the rebounding at their place, and they came back and got us here."

UC Davis out-rebounded UC Irvine, 39-32. The Aggies were 11 of 27 from threedom, compared to just three of 15 for the 'Eaters.

"We wanted to get out and run a little bit more, and when we did we were successful," Oliver said. "But we didn't seem to get enough opportunities. We didn't get enough rebounds to do that."

Saturday's game, at 1 p.m. against Pacific, is senior day for the Anteaters. They will honor Cheyenne Cathey, Pernilla Hanson and Anete Klintsone prior to the contest.

Big West Conference

UC Davis 47, UC Irvine 43

UCD – Fipps 19, French 9, Shinoda 6, Marfone 4, Doherty 4, Baker 3, Greubel 2.

3-pt. goals – Fipps 5, French 3, Shinoda 2, Baker 1.

Fouled out – None.

UCI – Bernard 13, Tsurumoto 12, Buckley 7, Fajemisin 4, Onogomuho 4, Meggs 3.

3-pt. goals – Tsurumoto 2, Meggs 1.

Fouled out – Buckley.

Halftime – UCI, 20-18.


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