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Aztecs dealt first home loss of the year


Photo:  McKynzie Fort led all players with 16 points on Friday vs. UCI.  Courtesy

December 8, 2017 (San Diego) - The San Diego State women’s basketball team suffered its first home loss of the season in heartbreaking fashion on Friday, falling to UC Irvine by a narrow 67-65 count in front of 4,148 fans at Steve Fisher Court.

The Aztecs (5-3) led for over 35 minutes of contest, including a 65-63 spread in the waning moments before the Anteaters scored four points in the final 10 seconds to escape with the win.

UCI (5-5) capitalized on 21 SDSU turnovers, outscoring the host school 29-16 off those miscues while maintaining a 36-20 advantage in the paint to help key its third straight victory.

The Aztecs were paced by senior McKynzie Fort (Fontana, Calif.), who led all players with 16 points, while fellow classmate Geena Gomez (Huntington Beach, Calif.) chipped in 12 points of her own to go with a game-high seven assists.

In addition, the SDSU cause was advanced by senior Khalia Lark (Irvine, Calif.) and freshman Najé Murray (Stockton, Calif.), who totaled 10 points each, while sophomore Naomi Ekwedike (Lagos, Nigeria) provided a spark with six points and five rebounds in 11 minutes of action.

Ekwedike’s layup with 7:12 left in the fourth quarter gave the Aztecs a seemingly comfortable 58-49 advantage. However, the Anteaters methodically whittled away at the deficit, engineering a 14-4 spurt to take the lead.

Lauren Saiki nailed a three-pointer while Deijah Blanks capped the run shortly thereafter with a steal and a layup to put the visitors up 63-62 with 1:56 remaining in the contest.

Moments later, Fort hit a 15-foot jumper from the right wing and subsequently connected on one of two free throws after a Gomez steal to put the Scarlet and Black up 65-63 with 18 seconds left.

However, the Anteaters quickly responded on the ensuing possession, as Blanks scored on a twisting bank shot with 10 ticks on the clock and was fouled. The following free throw was off target, but Yazzy Sa’Dullah was fouled after gathering the rebound with 2.6 seconds to go, sending UCI to the charity stripe.

Sa’Dullah made the first of two attempts to put the Anteaters in front. The second shot also went awry, but Blanks collected the loose ball and was fouled once again before hitting one of two free throws with a scant 0.2 seconds remaining to account for the final margin.

UCI was led by Brooke Bayman and Sabrina Englestad, who tallied 10 points apiece off the bench, while Andee Ritter recorded a game-high six rebounds. In addition, Tahlia Garza tied Englestad for game-high honors with three blocked shots. The Anteater reserves outscored the Aztec bench, 37-18.

Buoyed by a 6-for-18 clip from beyond the 3-point arc in the first half, SDSU built a 35-27 lead by halftime. However, the Aztecs connected on two triples for the remainder of the contest, including a conversion by Lark at the 7:39 mark of the third quarter, which gave the Aztecs a 38-29 advantage.

After Saliki hit a jumper to trim the margin to 47-44 with 1:37 left in the period, SDSU reclaimed an eight-point bulge following Fort’s old-fashioned three-point play and another basket by Lark. However, the Anteaters remained within striking distance after Dani Gugliemo buried a trey, which narrowed the gap to 52-47 by the end of the quarter.

Neither team shot the ball particularly well on the afternoon, as the Aztecs connected on 40.7 percent of its field-goal attempts (24-59), while UCI drained 39.7 percent of its attempts from the floor (25-63). The Anteaters were just 12-18 from the foul line (66.7 percent) for the game, but managed an 8-for-11 effort in the pivotal fourth period.

San Diego State continues its homestand on Sunday, Dec. 10 when it squares off against Hope International, starting at 1 p.m. PT.

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