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UC Irvine rallies to open Big West play with 75-59 win at Cal Poly

UC Irvine rallied from a 14-point first-half deficit Saturday at Cal Poly, closing the gap to six by halftime before completing the comeback in Mott Athletics Center, earning a 75-59 Big West Conference-opening women’s basketball victory.

Highlighted by 4-for-6 shooting from 3-point range in the initial period, the Mustangs jumped out to an 18-11 lead through the first quarter.

Cal Poly’s fifth 3-pointer of the game, thanks to senior center Devin Stanback, put the Mustangs ahead 27-13 with 7:39 remaining until the break.

The Mustangs also led by 14 at three ensuing junctures of the half — 29-15 on a Stanback layup and then 31-17 & 33-19 after a pair of baskets from junior forward Hana Vesela in her home debut.

The Anteaters (11-2 overall), however — who compiled the league’s leading record during non-conference play — finished the half chipping away at the lead after the latter Vesela bucket re-established the 14-point margin with 4:56 to go in the period.

Another 3 by Stanback placed the Mustang lead at 38-25 with 2:59 left, but junior guard Lauren Saiki ignited a 7-0 UC Irvine run with a jumper, followed by a 3 by senior guard Andee Ritter and then a layup from senior center Sabrina Engelstad, narrowing the deficit to 38-32 at intermission.

Mustang junior forward Alicia Roufosse converted a layup with 3:40 remaining in the third quarter for a 45-39 advantage, but UCI would again close the quarter on a run, scoring the last nine points of the period to head to the fourth up 52-48. Tahlia Garza drove for a layup at the 1:30 mark to give the Anteaters the lead, 49-48, before a Saiki free throw three seconds before the horn finished the 9-0 quarter-closing surge.

Senior point guard Dye Stahley delivered a 3-pointer to pull the Mustangs (3-9, 0-1) within 63-57 with 2:35 left in regulation, but UCI answered with one more run, scoring eight straight points entirely off free throws beginning with 1:13 left in the game, taking advantage of Cal Poly fouling to stop the clock late to take a 71-57 lead with 27 seconds to play.

Saiki finished with a game-high 25 points to lead the Anteaters, while sophomore forward Jordan Sanders scored 16.

Stanback, who went 3-for-5 from beyond the arc, led Cal Poly with 17 points.

Stahley added 16 points alongside seven assists. Now with 274 assists for her career, Stahley moved into a tie with Kristy Baker (1998-02) for No. 8 in school history in the all-time assist category.

Freshman guard Maddie Willett chipped in 10 points, and senior forward Katie Nunnelley corralled a game-high 10 rebounds.

Cal Poly will continue its conference-opening homestand this upcoming weekend, hosting UC Santa Barbara on Saturday, Jan. 12. Tipoff for the Blue-Green Rivalry game is 2 p.m.

Provided by Cal Poly

Chance Dickman

Chance Dickman

Chance Dickman is our Weekend Sports Anchor/Reporter. Chance is a proud native of Wisconsin and is very happy to be sharing his love for sports with the beautiful Central Coast!
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