At several key instances in the Big West Conference game against visiting UC Davis on Saturday afternoon, the UC Irvine women’s basketball team uttered a collective groan when one of its shot attempts bounded or swirled in-and-out.
But, thanks in large part to the third double-double of the week for a UCI player, the Anteaters were able to prevail, 79-73, in overtime to complete a two-game home conference sweep for the week and inch up the congested Big West standings.
Junior Methlyn Onomoguho loaded up on the stat sheet for the winners, producing 20 points and 13 rebounds for her second double-double of the week.
Senior Camille Buckley, who is averaging a double-double in conference play, came up two rebounds shy of accomplishing the feat for the 11th time this season. She finished with 23 points and eight rebounds, while guards Lauren Spinazze and Jennifer Tsurumoto chipped in 12 and 10 points, respectively for the winners.
The win allows the ‘Eaters (12-11, 5-4 in conference) to move into a four-way tie for third with UC Davis (10-12, 5-4), Hawaii and Long Beach State with seven regular-season conference games remaining.
It also gives UCI back-to-back conference wins for the first time all season and may fuel a burgeoning confidence that has accompanied the continued depletion of its roster.
Second-year coach Doug Oliver, with only nine players in uniform, played only seven against the Aggies, who held a 60-50 lead with 10:10 left in regulation after Idit Oryon netted her team’s 10th three-pointer of the contest.
“It does give us confidence,” said Oliver, whose team handled Long Beach State, 78-58, at home on Thursday behind double-doubles from Buckley and Onomoguho. “Our pattern this year has been: Look good on Thursday and get thumped on Saturday. We were a little nervous coming out [against UC Davis, which had won 19 of the previous 23 meetings between the two] because I didn’t know how much [UCI players] had in the tank.”
UCI showed it had plenty as two free throws by Buckley (who was 13 for 16 from the foul line) and a 10-foot jumper by Onomoguho triggered a 14-0 run that included three-pointers by Spinazze and junior reserve Madison McKenney that ended with 4:52 left with UCI holding a 64-60 cushion.
UC Davis, which netted eight of 16 three-point attempts before halftime, but was 11 for 33 from threedom for the game, including one for six in overtime, knotted the score at 64 and 66.
Sydnee Fipps’ eight-foot baseline jumper with 1:32 left gave the visitors a 68-66 advantage.
But Buckley, who at 6-foot-1 was the only Anteater among six six-footers in the game, sank two free throws with 1:11 left in regulation to knot the score for the ninth time in a game that also featured 12 lead changes.
Spinazze blocked a three-point attempt that Buckley rebounded with 43 seconds left in regulation, then McKenney missed from three-point range with 23 seconds left.
Davis wound up with the rebound and called timeout with 17 seconds left.
But a UCI zone defense (another shift this week after playing almost exclusively man-to-man the first 21 games) that forced 21 turnovers, more than double the Anteaters’ 10, shuffled and switched on the perimeter on the ensuing possession. The flustered Aggies failed to get off a shot before the buzzer brought on overtime.
McKenney, who had seven points and two assists to provide a spark off the bench, had her three-point try from the right wing swirl in-and-out to begin overtime and Onogomuho misfired on an open layup 30 seconds later as things remained deadlocked.
But after Davis point guard Molly Greubel (four points and 14 assists) got lost underneath for a layup with 2:44 left, UCI went on a 7-0 run that included a Spinazze jumper, a driving layup by Tsurumoto, a follow shot by Onomoguho and a Buckley free throw that produced a 76-70 advantage with 1:15 left in overtime.
The Aggies’ final thee-pointer with 1:04 left halved the deficit, but Onomoguho, whose points and rebounds were both career highs, finished off the victory with a swooping left-handed runner that became a three-point play with 13 ticks remaining.
“I looked at the clock [after making the six-foot bank shot] and I was like ‘We’ve got this one. We’ve got this one,’” the 5-11 Onomoguho said. “Then it was an adrenaline rush that took control, for sure.”
Onomoguho, who amassed 35 points and 25 rebounds in the two wins, said her recent productivity was the result of a talk with a friend.
“That talk opened my mind to the fact that sometimes I am on a roller coaster with my performance,” Onomoguho said. “I wanted to step up and show it’s time for me to be a little more consistent. After the Long Beach State game, I was really proud of myself and I liked the way it felt. So I think I kept the mind-set that it’s not just about me, but its about my team. And I want to perform.”
Onomoguho, a member of the Big West All-Freshman team two seasons ago, had just three double-doubles in 69 career games (60 starts), before this week. In two games she upped her season scoring average from 7.4 to 9.1 per game and her rebounding average went from 6.7 to 7.4.
“This week was really huge for her,” said Oliver, who noted that the surge also followed a change in the approach to coaching Onomoguho. “We have just sort of let her alone, told her to go play and that we would cheer her on. It frees her up to use her athleticism.”
Big West Conference
UC Irvine 79, UC Davis 73
UCD – Fipps 21, Marfone 8, Doherty 8, Harris 12, Greubel 4, Oryon 13, Johnson 7 .
3-pt-. goals – Harris 4, Fipps 3, Oryon 3, Johnson 1.
Fouled out – Marfone, Doherty.
Technicals – None.
UCI – Buckley 23, Onomoguho 20, Spinazze 12, Tsurumoto 10, Aguilar 1, McKenny 7, Bernard 6.
3-pt. goals – Spinazze 3, Tsurumoto 1, McKenney 1.
Fouled out – None.
Technicals – None.
Halftime – UCD, 42-40.