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Tritons Stun Anteaters in Overtime, 69-65

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The UCI Women’s Basketball team (17-8, 12-4) fell to the UC San Diego Tritons (11-16, 7-9), 69-65 in overtime, at the Bren Events Center on Feb. 24.

Entering the night, the ‘Eaters were on a four-game winning streak, gaining victories over UC Riverside, Cal State Bakersfield and UC Santa Barbara. UCI won the previous matchup against the Tritons, 57-49, on the road.

The ‘Eaters jumped out to a quick 6-2 advantage after junior guard Déja Lee drilled a three-pointer. UCI senior center Nevaeh Parkinson continued the fast start, powering over the defense for a layup.

UC Irvine’s defense started hot as well, generating multiple deflections leading to six first-quarter UC San Diego turnovers. Before the media timeout, Tritons freshman guard Sumayah Sugapong converted on a jumpshot to cut the deficit to 10-6.

Out of the break, the Anteaters forced yet another turnover, this time translating into a pull-up jumper from graduate guard Moulayna Johnson Sidi Baba. The ‘Eaters increased the gap with a three from junior guard Nikki Tom’s five early points, forcing a Tritons timeout.

UC Irvine head coach Tamara Inoue discussed the importance of Tom being aggressive on offense.

“She does so well on the defensive end, sometimes she gets tired on offense,” Inoue said in an interview with the New University. “But when she’s playing how she did tonight,[the team is] in pretty good shape.”

Finding themselves down 15-6 early on, the Tritons managed to cut into the Anteater lead with a crucial 4-0 spurt to end the quarter. A layup from junior guard Izzy Forsyth capped off the run.

Although the ‘Eaters were ahead going into the second quarter, the momentum slowly switched over to the Tritons side as turnovers and fouls kept them in the game despite a 3-12 shooting performance.

Carrying over into the second quarter, Forsyth knocked down a three-pointer to cut the lead to two. Sidi Baba responded, converting a fadeaway jumper from the post.

Lee also contributed to warding off the Tritons, finishing in transition off the euro-step for the layup and making a triple to push the lead back up to 22-17. 

UC San Diego remained persistent, sparking a massive 13-4 run in the final four minutes of the first half. The Tritons gained their first lead of the night, 27-25 after senior guard Parker Montgomery out-hustled the Anteater defense for an offensive board and putback layup. 

Graduate guard Denali Pinto put an exclamation point on the first-half comeback, drilling a three for a Triton’s 30-27 advantage heading into halftime.

UC San Diego completed the eight-point turnaround largely due to their dominance on the boards, grabbing nine offensive rebounds that translated into seven second-chance points. Additionally, they shot a scorching 4-6 from beyond the arc in the second quarter.  

Early in the third quarter, both teams went back and forth seeking the upper hand. A layup from UCI senior forward Nevaeh Dean cut the Triton lead to 37-35.

However, the inability to keep the Tritons off the offensive boards alongside foul trouble allowed UC San Diego to stay in control. Forsyth finished a layup, rewarding the Tritons with a seven-point lead, their highest of the game. 

The ‘Eaters strung together a 6-0 run to retake the lead. UCI regained momentum after Lee pick-pocketed Tritons sophomore guard Grace Talbot, leading to her finding UCI junior guard Amelia Scharpf in transition for the go-ahead layup in transition. The Anteaters closed the quarter extending their lead as senior guard Diaba Konate found Scharpf on a back-door cut to the rim, 47-44.

UC San Diego kicked off the fourth quarter by tying the game at 47 apiece after Sugapong drilled a three-point jumper. Lee retaliated with a three of her own to put the Anteaters ahead once again.

In the middle of the quarter, Konate knocked down her patent pull-up jumper from the free-throw line to put the ‘Eaters up by five. The next offensive possession, Lee made her fourth triple of the game, ballooning the Anteater lead to 59-53.

Yet, the Tritons refused to quit, battling their way back. as Montgomery drilled a three-pointer to cut the deficit to within two. 

In the final 40 seconds of the quarter, UCI had two opportunities to put the game out of reach, coming up short as UC San Diego secured the rebound and called a timeout with 35 seconds remaining.

After the timeout, Sugapong knocked down a contested fadeaway jumper to tie the game at 59 with 15 seconds left, forcing an Anteater timeout. Sidi Baba had a chance to win the game for the ‘Eaters, however, her three-point attempt fell just short, sending the game into overtime. 

UC San Diego came out the gates strong in overtime, jumping out to a four-point lead after Sugapong converted on a layup. UC Irvine responded after Parkinson finished the layup through the foul, cutting the deficit to two. 

In the final stretch of overtime, the Tritons furthered the gap after redshirt freshman guard Gracie Gallegos made a miraculous bank-shot jumper to put her squad ahead, 67-61. Parkinson found herself at the line once again after a loose ball foul, going one for two.

UCI continued to battle, retaining possession after the missed Parkinson free-throw attempt, later confirmed after an official review. The ‘Eaters capitalized on the opportunity as Konate located Tom in the corner for the triple to cut the Triton lead to two. 

Next possession, the offensive rebounding prowess of UC San Diego reemerged. After UC Irvine got a much needed stop, the Tritons gained another chance as Gallegos snatched the board and drew a foul. She went on to make one of her two free-throws, leaving the game still at one score affair, 68-65.

Lee, with four three-pointers already, had three opportunities to tie the game but was unsuccessful, forcing the Anteaters to foul with about a second left in the game.

Montgomery converted on her second attempt from the line, putting the game out of reach and awarding the Tritons with a 69-65 comeback victory over the Anteaters. 

The ‘Eaters winning streak snapped at four games as Lee with 18 points, Tom with 12 and Sidi Baba with 10 off the bench led the team in scoring. UC San Diego’s leading scorers were Gallegos with 18 points and Sugapong with 15. 

Coach Inoue shared her thoughts on her squad’s late game execution.

“We got good shots but it took longer to get into what we wanted,” Inoue said. “Execution out of the timeouts could be better, but I’m happy with the shots we took.”

The ‘Eaters look to rebound from this loss when they take on Cal State Northridge at home on Thursday, Feb. 29.

Donnell Fuller is a Sports Staff Writer. He can be reached at ddfuller@uci.edu.