By Matt Szabo
9:29 PM PST, January 5, 2013
IRVINE — The first 11 shots clanged off the rim at the start of Saturday's game for the UC Irvine women's basketball team.
Junior forward Jasmine Bernard finally made the 12th shot, a layup on Kelly Meggs' assist. But the Anteaters were already in a big hole against visiting Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
UC Irvine Coach Doug Oliver has seen the poor shooting for much of the early season. So far, the lack of scoring is making it difficult for UCI to score wins in the Big West Conference.
Cal Poly cruised to a 64-46 win at Bren Events Center, and it really wasn't that close. The game was essentially over by halftime, when Cal Poly had a 36-15 edge.
The 15 points were the Anteaters' lowest output for a half in more than a year, since a nonconference game against Wyoming on Dec. 21, 2011 (14 points). And the 18-point loss tied a December setback to Idaho as the worst of the season.
"Our offensive struggles have been ongoing," Oliver said. "We only had 17 points in the first half on Thursday [in a 51-46 loss to UC Santa Barbara], but at least we were in fighting distance. But [tonight] Cal Poly played with so much energy. We had a lot of good, open shots early in the ballgame and couldn't get anything to fall. We lost energy on the defensive end, and they took advantage of it. Cal Poly reacted like you'd anticipate a team reacting after a loss Thursday. Unfortunately, we did not do that."
Bernard ended with a team-high 13 points off the bench for the Anteaters (4-10, 0-2 in conference). If UCI didn't have her, it would have been even worse. She made four of six shots in the opening half, while the rest of the team was a combined two for 22.
Ariana Elegado, a sophomore guard for Cal Poly (7-6, 1-1), matched UC Irvine in the first half by scoring 15 points, all of them on three-pointers. She finished with a game-high 20 points.
UC Irvine, which fell to 0-6 at home this season, shot just 15 of 53 for the game (28%). Its leading scorer coming into the game, junior point guard Jennifer Tsurumoto, missed all nine of her field-goal attempts and was held scoreless.
"Jen and Kelly, our two starting guards, didn't score a basket," Oliver said. "I don't think they put tremendous pressure on, or tried to do anything special to us. We went inside and took some good shots and missed them, and we took some bad shots and paid the price for it. It's unfortunate, because I think the group, all in all, continues to play hard. You'd like to be rewarded for competing, but right now we're not able to do that."
Junior forward Lauren Spinazze had eight points for the 'Eaters, all in the second half, and junior guard Vanessa Aguilar tied her career high with six points. Both totals came off the bench, as UCI's starters combined for just 10 points.
Senior forward Brittany Woodard scored the first seven points of the game for Cal Poly and finished with 15. She and Elegado helped Coach Faith Mimnaugh's Mustangs, who have been the Big West regular-season champions each of the last two years, rebound from a 62-52 loss at Long Beach State on Thursday in the conference opener.
Cal Poly led by as many as 31 points in the second half. The Mustangs still led by 28 in the closing minutes before UC Irvine closed the game on a 12-2 run.
"At Long Beach State, we had inconsistent ball pressure across the board," Mimnaugh said. "I think we did a much better job in this game of bringing intensity and applying as much pressure as we could to make things difficult. Irvine's one of the best offensive rebounding teams that I've seen, so we really made it an emphasis to try to get to the defensive glass. I felt like those two factors were probably the biggest reasons that we were able to create some separation."
The Mustangs finished with a 45-32 edge in rebounding.
"We really played like dog doo-doo, for lack of a better term, on Thursday night," Mimnaugh said. "[Tonight] we didn't want to see that same Cal Poly team. I was pleased to see the Cal Poly team that I think has a chance to be competitive in the [conference]."
UC Irvine travels to play Hawaii on Wednesday at 9 p.m. Pacific Standard Time.
Big West Conference
Cal Poly San Luis Obispo 64, UC Irvine 46
CP – Elegado 20, Woodard 15, Schlemer 10, Allison 6, Reeves 5, Griffin 2, Ervin 2, Garza 2, Hughes 2.
3-pt. goals – Elegado 6, Woodard 1, Reeves 1.
Fouled out – None.
Technicals – None.
UCI – Bernard 13, Spinazze 8, Buckley 6, Aguilar 6, Hanson 4, Fajemisin 3, Cathey 3, Klintsone 2, Meggs 1.
3-pt. goals – Aguilar 2, Spinazze 1, Hanson 1.
Fouled out – None.
Technicals – None.
Halftime – Cal Poly, 36-15.