The UCI Women’s Basketball team (1-1) snagged a 74-43 victory over the Seattle University Redhawks (0-2) on Saturday, Nov. 11 at the Bren Events Center. The win followed a tough 58-63 loss to Pepperdine in their season opener, on Tuesday, Nov. 7.
Before tipoff, the Anteaters unveiled their 2022-23 Big West regular season championship banner. Junior guard Déja Lee spoke alongside reigning Big West Sixth Player of the Year, Nevaeh Parkinson, on the significance of seeing the banner raised.
“It meant a lot as last year we went through a lot with injuries and that team was able to come together and fight every game,” Parkinson said in an interview with the New University. “It was really special to see our hard work on display.”
“It was a nice feeling, knowing that we made history as a team,” Lee said. “It’s nice to be a part of something because that was one of my goals [to be a part of history] when I said yes to being a part of the UC Irvine team. It’s cool seeing the banner because that’s forever.”
UCI sprinted out to an early 5-2 lead against the Redhawks after senior guard Diaba Konate scored a quick layup and Lee drilled a three-pointer off an assist from junior guard Nikki Tom.
The ‘Eaters started the game with a high level of intensity on the defensive end, forcing eight early turnovers. One of the eight miscues occurred after a pickpocket steal from freshman guard Shirel Nahum. She finished the play, scoring a three-pointer off an assist from Lee, pushing the lead to 13-5.
Nahum continued her stellar play off the bench, preventing a turnover before the end of the first quarter, and drawing a foul on a three-point shot attempt before the buzzer. She made two out of the three free throw attempts, extending the lead 15-5.
At the start of the second quarter, the Anteaters firmly took control of the game. Led by Konate and Parkinson, the two scored 12 of the first 14 Anteater points of the quarter. The duo capped it off with a spectacular pass from Konate to Parkinson in the low post for an easy layup, forcing a Redhawks timeout at 29-9.
UCI closed the first half on a 7-3 run, piecing together a beautiful defensive performance for a commanding 36-12 lead. The ‘Eaters forced 15 turnovers, leading to 17 points off them.
Later in the third, UCI continued to scorch the Redhawks from beyond the arc as junior guard Amelia Scharpf connected on two three-pointers for a 54-24 Anteater lead.
The ‘Eater defense allowed its first three-pointer of the game at the 1:47 mark of the third quarter as senior forward Irena Korolenko connected from behind the arc, cutting the lead to 56-27. UCI matched the Redhawks with a three of their own from Lee, along with a tough and-one from Parkinson to close the quarter with a 61-27 lead.
Entering the fourth and final quarter, UCI possessed a commanding lead of 40 points after a layup from senior forward Caiyle Kaupu off an assist from Nahum, 70-30. The ‘Eaters, after a devastating defeat Tuesday Night, responded in a big way with a dominant 74-43 victory over the Redhawks, running out the remainder of the clock.
Head Coach Tamara Inoue emphasized how impressed she was with her team’s response after the season opener loss.
“It was good the way we responded,” Inoue said. “The biggest thing for us was that we stayed consistent on defense and did not allow [the Redhawks] to come back easily.”
Saturday’s game was the defensive blueprint the Anteaters hope to utilize to make a deep run this season. The defense forced 27 turnovers, scoring 31 points off of them, and kept the Redhawks to 13% shooting from behind the three-point line and 28% from the field collectively.
“At the end of the day, there’s a lot of things we did that we can improve on. We’ll get back in the film room and get everyone on the same page,” Inoue said.
Lee echoed her coach’s sentiment.
“Continuing to communicate, it helps when everyone is on the same page,” Lee said. “When we’re all together as a unit, we’re unstoppable.”
Donnell Fuller is a Sports Staff Writer. He can be reached at email@example.com.