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HomeSportsBasketballHistoric WBB Season Comes to an End, Falling 75-56 to Gonzaga 

Historic WBB Season Comes to an End, Falling 75-56 to Gonzaga 

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The UCI Women’s Basketball team (23-9, 16-4) was defeated by the Gonzaga Bulldogs (31-3, 16-0), 75-56, at the McCarthey Athletic Center in Spokane, Wash. in the first round of the NCAA Women’s Tournament. 

UCI once again found themselves against another prolific offense as the Bulldogs entered the night with the 11th-ranked scoring offense in the NCAA (81.2 PPG) and second-ranked three-point shooting team in the nation (40%). However, UCI boasted the 11th-best scoring defense in the nation, allowing 55 PPG

The ‘Eaters responded to the tournament atmosphere exceptionally, with senior guard Diaba Konate converting on her signature pull-up jumper for the early UCI advantage. Anteater junior guard Nikki Tom also contributed to the quick start, knocking down a three-point shot.

The leading scorer for the Bulldogs this season, senior forward Yvonne Ejim, scored the first bucket of the game for her team, laying the ball up over the top of the Anteater defense.

UCI continued their stellar start as senior center Nevaeh Parkinson came off the bench and provided two quick layups, followed by a three-pointer from Konate, her second all season, forming an early 12-4 advantage.

Gonzaga slowly closed the gap, finishing the first quarter with some momentum as Ejim ignited her squad with life off a layup, cutting the Anteater lead to 17-10 heading into the second quarter.

The Bulldogs capitalized on the ‘Eaters Achilles heel of second quarter play, opening with a 6-0 run off the back of crashing the offensive boards. A miscue from the ‘Eaters allowed Bulldogs graduate guard Kayleigh Truong to drill a mid-range jumpshot off the offensive rebound.

Bulldogs head coach Lisa Fortier shared her message to the team entering the second quarter in the postgame press conference.

“We weren’t defending well,” Fortier said. “We got to have each other’s back and follow the scouting [report] better to get some stops.” 

Gonzaga eventually took the lead for the first time when graduate forward Eliza Hollingsworth snagged an offensive board for the go-ahead putback layup. The ‘Eaters maintained their composure, retaking the lead with another Parkinson layup.

Before the media timeout, Hollingsworth knocked down the Bulldogs’ first three-pointer of the game after an uncharacteristic 0-10 start from beyond the arc from one of the nation’s top three-point shooting teams.

Out of the break, Anteater junior guard Déja Lee got her team back on track, knocking down a jumper to tie the game at 23. 

Gonzaga closed out the first half on a 7-2 run, as Ejim’s 12 points propelled the Bulldogs to a 30-25 halftime lead.     

The Bulldogs came out strong to start the second half, mounting a 7-0 run capped with a triple from graduate guard Brynna Maxwell, ballooning the lead to 37-25 and forcing an Anteater timeout.

UCI, out of the timeout, attempted to battle back into the game with a Parkinson layup, but Maxwell and the Bulldogs did not relinquish their momentum easily. Maxwell found her rhythm sinking a three-pointer, causing the Gonzaga crowd to erupt.

Fellow Bulldog Kayleigh Truong found her shooting touch as well, drilling back-to-back triples to push Gonzaga’s lead to 50-29 with four minutes left in the quarter. 

The Anteaters closed the gap as Lee knocked down a triple to cut the deficit down to 36-55, leaving UCI with one final quarter to extend their season.

Much like the close of the third quarter, Lee converted on another three-pointer to keep the ‘Eaters close for a potential comeback. However, the Bulldogs cut down the Anteaters’ comeback attempt as Ejim finished a layup in transition off a pass from graduate guard Kaylynne Truong. 

Gonzaga held onto their lead, winning 75-56 and advancing into the second round of the tournament led by Ejim’s 25 points and 14 rebounds. For the ‘Eaters, the loss ended their historic season as Parkinson finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds and graduate guard Moulayna Johnson Sidi Baba poured in 15 points and 12 rebounds, alongside Lee’s 13 points.

Postgame, UCI head coach Tamara Inoue discussed how this season further builds the culture in the program.

“We continue to recruit and get players that want to do what we’re doing,” Inoue said in the post-game press conference. “The core is coming back, that’s something we need to build on and fit the pieces in to continue the success we’re having.”

This wraps up another historic season for the ‘Eaters, who secured their first Big West Women’s Championship and NCAA Tournament appearance since 1995.  With the season coming to a close the ‘Eaters must say farewell to departing seniors Johnson Sidi Baba, Konate, forward Caiyle Kaupu and guard Tarryn Ross.

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

Edited by James Huston and Jeanette Wallis, and Laiyla Santillan