LOS ANGELES — UC Irvine senior Camille Buckley may have helped the Anteaters secure their 63-60 women's basketball win at Loyola Marymount on Friday afternoon. But it wasn't until a few moments after she buried two free throws with 14 seconds left to finalize the scoring that she took her best shots at the Lions.
"I couldn't sleep last night, because I was so worried about it," the 6-foot-1 forward said of her first game against the program at which she spent her first two collegiate seasons, before transferring. "But I'm going to sleep excellent tonight. I'm going to be knocked out, drooling all on the side and everything."
The win propelled UCI (4-2) into the title game of the four-team LMU Thanksgiving Classic. Coach Doug Oliver's 'Eaters, off to their best start in 11 seasons, will play North Dakota State (2-3) at 3 p.m. on Saturday.
Buckley, the West Coast Conference Newcomer of the Year in 2010-11 (after she was injured eight games into the previous season and was granted a medical redshirt year), collected 14 points, 16 rebounds, three assists, two blocked shots and two steals on Friday. But her biggest contribution came after being fouled while attempting a layup with the Anteaters holding onto a precarious one-point lead.
"I was a little nervous, but my teammates had my back," Buckley said of a second half in which the Anteaters committed 20 of their 26 turnovers and saw a 38-25 advantage turn into a 57-51 deficit with 4:33 left. "I told myself, 'They know this is important, so we're not going to lose this game.'
"When I was at the free-throw line [where she was six for six], I was just like 'This is like practice; two free throws.' They fouled the wrong person. I took my time and put two in.
"I know some of the [LMU] players," said Buckley, who is averaging a double-double this season and has 17 double-doubles in her 35-game UCI career. "And even though it's not the same coaching staff, when I came in [to Gersten Pavilion], I said 'This is still LMU and I don't have a good history with this place. We're pushing it down their throats, and we did that."
Senior guard Jennifer Tsurumoto was also huge in the waning moments on her way to 16 points and a team-best five assists. In addition, junior Methlyn Onogomuho tied her career high with 16 points and also collected nine rebounds in 23 minutes off the bench for the winners.
Buckley's layin with 4:18 left pulled the Anteaters within 57-53 and ended a drought of 5 minutes, 27 seconds without a field goal.
After a missed free throw by the Lions (1-5), Tsurumoto found herself with the ball 28 feet out with time winding down on the shot clock. She drilled the extended three-pointer to pull the visitors within 57-56 with 2:17 remaining.
After an LMU free throw tied it, Onogomuho, who was eight for 12 from the field, scored inside. Then, following an LMU miss at the other end, Tsurumoto netted a layup and was fouled. She converted the three-point play with 32 seconds left.
But sophomore Sophie Taylor, who led the Lions with 16 points, all in the second half, netted what was initially ruled a three-pointer from the right corner with 19 seconds left. After a video review, however, the officials changed it to a two-pointer, leaving UCI up, 61-60.
Tsurumoto, who had five of her team-worst six turnovers after intermission, drove into the front court, spotted Buckley ahead of the pack under the basket, and hit the former Lion, who was fouled and came through to earn bragging rights, as well as a chance to win a tournament title, a rarity for the program.
"[The Lions] put us [in the first-round matchup] because they thought we were the worst team in the tournament," Buckley said. "Throw that back at ya [Lions]. So, it feels great to be able to play for a [championship] trophy [Saturday]."
UCI posted a 52-36 rebounding edge and shot better than the Lions from the field, the foul line and three-point distance.
LMU Thanksgiving Classic
UC Irvine 63, Loyola Marymount 60
UCI – Buckley 14, White 0, Tsurumoto 16 ,Spinazze 3, Meggs 2, Onogomuho 16, McKenney 5, Bernard 4, Aguilar 3.
3-pt. goals – Tsurumoto 3, Spinazze 1, Aguilar 1, McKenney 1.
Fouled out – None.
Technicals – None.
LMU – Ben-Jumbo 10, Kerins 4, Ramirez 9, Anderson 2, Barnes 0, Taylor 16, Johnson 11, Kennedy 5, Lopez-Wood 3.
3-pt. goals – Taylor 3, Ramirez 1, Johnson 1, Lopez-Wood 1.
Fouled out – None.
Technicals – None.
Halftime – UCI, 33-23.