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