Coming off of a first round exit in the Big West Tournament Championships to Bakersfield, the UCI Women’s Basketball team (24-6, 16-2) will continue their 2023 season with a first round NIT matchup against the San Diego State University Aztecs (23-10,12-6) at Viejas Arena in San Diego at 6 p.m. on Friday, March 17.
The Anteaters fell short of their quest for their second ever appearance in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Tournament. However, the program earned their second straight women’s NIT tournament berth after losing in the first round to UCLA last year, 61-49.
The Aztecs lead the all-time series against the Anteaters, 21-8. Despite that, however, San Diego State fell short of the NCAA tournament after falling to UNLV in the semifinals of the Mountain West Conference Championships. In their last matchup in Irvine on Nov. 14, 2021, the Aztecs took home the victory 68-60, but it was UCI that won the last matchup at Viejas Arena on Dec. 19, 2020.
For the Anteaters, this season has been plagued by injuries. Three leading scorers all went down with season-ending knee injuries before the end of the regular season. Graduate forward Naomi Hunt was lost to an ACL injury, then sophomore guard Olivia Williams went down with a knee injury against Hawai’i, and finally, sophomore guard Hunter Hernandez suffered a knee injury against UC Santa Barbara. Despite all of this, the Anteaters have continued to battle and proved to be a major threat in the Big West Conference, winning a record high 16 games.
The Anteaters are now led by All Big West selections junior guard Diaba Konate and sophomore guard Nikki Tom. Both scorers average eight points per game. In addition, junior forward/center Nevaeh Parkinson was voted the conference’s best sixth player award, leading the team with 5.9 rebounds per game.
For San Diego State, the Aztecs are led by a balanced scoring attack of senior guards Sophia Ramos and Mercedes Staples, who average 12.1 and 10.5 points respectively per game, and sophomore guard Asia Avinger, who averages 11.8 points per game.
The Anteaters will definitely have to contain the high-powered guard play from the Aztecs if they are to advance in the tournament. The game can be streamed on the Mountain West Network or listened to on KUCI radio.
James Huston is a Sports Co-Editor. He can be reached at email@example.com.