The UC Irvine women’s basketball team (19-10, 14-4) defeated the CSU Bakersfield Roadrunners (4-19, 3-11) 67-52 in the final game of the regular season on Saturday, March 5 at the Bren Events Center.
Redshirt freshman guard Kayla Williams led the Anteaters in scoring for the third straight game, finishing with 20 points, five rebounds, two assists and three steals. Freshman guard Hunter “Hundo” Hernandez provided some much-needed energy off the bench, adding 12 points and six rebounds to the victory.
UCI started off the game hot with a 13-4 scoring run capped by a Hernandez jumper. The Anteaters never looked back as they led 19-10 at the end of the first quarter after a bucket by Williams assisted by sophomore guard Jayde Cadee.
The Anteaters opened the second quarter on a quick 7-0 run following five straight points from freshman guard Nikki Tom and a jumper from Hernandez. The Anteaters started to ramp up the intensity defensively, forcing deflections and sloppy turnovers from the Roadrunners. This allowed Irvine to extend their lead to 17 just before the half.
The ‘Eaters outscored the Roadrunners 20-15 in the second quarter to take a 39-25 lead going into the break.
To start the second half, the ‘Runners scored six quick points, closing the gap to single digits at 39-31, but UCI responded back even stronger by going on a 11-0 scoring run and extending their lead. In that run, Williams scored five points to put the ‘Eaters up 50-31. Her most notable bucket came when she stared down her defender and crossed them over to hit a jump shot in the paint.
The Anteaters went into the last quarter leading 52-38, determined to protect the lead. With the ball loose on the floor, Williams dove onto it to gain possession for UCI and then knocked down a three-pointer on the other end to lead 55-39. It was still early in the fourth quarter, but Williams’ two-way ability crushed any hopes of a Roadrunner comeback.
As Hernandez killed the CSUB 2-3 zone with her inside game and back-to-back threes from Williams and Cadee, UCI took a 20-point lead midway through the fourth quarter. UCI played an intense defense down to the final seconds until they won 67-52.
It was simple, fundamental basketball that helped UCI secure the win. They finished with just seven turnovers while holding CSUB to just 30.9% shooting.
Hernandez was key to UCI’s victory, as her decision-making and aggressiveness rendered the Roadrunners’ zone useless, which she touched upon following the game.
“I think focusing on the [scouting report], me and my teammates really locked in today and we executed things pretty well … I think as time has went on, I’ve gotten more confidence on offense as well and I’m carrying that energy to the defensive side,” Hernandez said.
With this being the last game of the regular season, UCI will be a top seed in the Big West Tournament.
Hernandez spoke about her expectations of the team. “I think we’re gonna win the tournament. We’re really prepared and locked in right now so I think we have a really good chance,” he said.
UCI head coach Tamara Inoue applauded her team’s effort after the senior day victory in front of the home fans.
“I thought [the team] did a really good job of coming out hot,” Inoue said. “We just have to continue to get better and be ready. After this, there’s no more like ‘oh, we’ll learn from this,’ it’s all about surviving and advancing.”
With the win, UCI secured the number two spot in the postseason conference tournament. They will travel to Henderson, Nevada next week for the 2022 Hercules Tires Big West Championships presented by the Hawaiian Islands. The Anteaters will face the winner of the Cal State Fullerton vs. Cal Poly game on Wednesday, March 9 at 6 p.m. at the Dollar Loan Center. The game can be streamed on ESPN+, and the live stats can be viewed online.
James Huston is a Sports Staff Writer for the Winter 2022 quarter. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Angus Wong is a Sports Staff Writer for the Winter 2022 quarter. He can be reached at email@example.com.