The UCI Women’s Basketball team (25-7,16-2) season ended with a 58-48 loss to the University of San Diego Toreros (19-13,11-7) in the second round of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament (NIT) at the Jenny Craig Pavilion in San Diego on Monday, March 20.
The Anteaters were led by junior guard Diaba Konate with 12 points and sophomore guard Amelia Scharpf with 11 points, while sophomore guard Kylie Horstmeyer scored 15 for the Toreros in the victory. Overall, it was a difficult game for the Anteaters as they really struggled to get points on the Toreros’ tough interior defense. UCI ended the game shooting only 20-67 (29.9%) from the floor and 5-16 (31.3%) from three. The loss was their only double-digit defeat of the season.
A three-pointer by UCI sophomore guard Nikki Tom opened the match, giving the Anteaters the edge. A layup from Konate gave the Anteaters a 5-2 advantage, but the Toreros stormed back with a 9-0 run to take the lead. A three-pointer from UCI sophomore guard Déja Lee ended the run; however, a layup from the Torerors beat the first quarter buzzer, giving them a 13-8 lead going into the second period.
A layup from senior forward Kasey Neubert put the Toreros advantage at 15-8, a score that would remain for the next six minutes. It was a defensive battle on both sides of the ball as both teams struggled to get anything to fall. UCI tried switching to a 2-3 matchup zone defense in an effort to limit the USD scoring opportunities, and it worked to perfection, holding the team without a field goal for seven minutes of play. Still, the Anteaters couldn’t figure out their offensive struggles to capitalize on this opportunity. USD graduate student guard Myah Pace ended the Toreros cold streak with a bucket to put them up 18-9 with three minutes left in the half.
After a layup from UCI graduate student forward Nyagoa Gony to break the Anteater cold streak, Pace connected on a three-point jumper, giving San Diego their largest lead of the night up to that point at 21-11. A quick 6-0 run by the Anteaters put them within five, untila three-pointer from just beyond the half court line from Horstmeyer beat the halftime buzzer and gave USD an eight-point lead heading into the break.
The UCI offense struggled in the first half, shooting a shocking 6-31 (19.4%) from the field and 2-8 (25%) from beyond the arc, while their opponents shot 9-28 (32.1%) from the field and 3-9 (33%) from three.
The second half for the Toreros started right where they left off in the first with a bucket by senior forward Amanda Olinger, tying their largest lead of the night with a 26-16 lead. They continued their hot start, putting together a 33-20 advantage following another three-pointer by Horstmeyer. Yet, the ‘Eaters fought back once again, shooting a solid 8-16 (50%) from the field in the third quarter after the earlier shooting slump. They cut the lead to nine, 43-34, heading into the fourth quarter.
The fourth quarter was sloppy for the Anteaters as they made a desperate attempt to get back in the game. Enhanced defensive pressure led to easy baskets for the Toreros, and USD capitalized off of multiple UCI turnovers to create easy fast break points. Because of this, San Diego opened the fourth quarter on a 7-0 scoring run, increasing their lead to 50-34 and forcing an Irvine timeout.
Following the timeout, the Anteaters proved they still had a little fight left with a quick 5-0 run with a three-pointer by Scharpf and a layup from Konate. Yet the comeback attempt proved to be too little, too late as UCI then went scoreless, allowing the Toreros to build a 54-39 lead with four minutes left.
From there, UCI fought back yet again, cutting the lead down to eight points with two minutes left after a jumper by Lee. However, that was as close as they came, as they went scoreless for the rest of the match, giving USD the 58-48 victory.
“I couldn’t be prouder of this team for their effort and their fight all season long,” UCI head coach Tamara Inoue said after the game. “We fought until the very end, we just missed some easy shots and free throws tonight.”
With the loss, the Anteaters’ season officially comes to an end in a year where they surpassed all expectations by winning both a record-high 25 games and the team’s first ever Big West regular season Conference Championship.
James Huston is a Sports Co-Editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.