Utah State appeared to be in control.
Devyn Christensen hit a 3-pointer to give the Aggies a nine-point lead over UC Irvine with 5:37 to go in the game.
But USU couldn’t close the deal.
Kelly Meggs drained a 3-ball of her own from the right wing with 3.1 seconds left, lifting the Anteaters to a 71-70 victory over the Aggies in a non-conference women’s basketball game Tuesday night at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum.
“It’s very frustrating,” USU head coach Jerry Finkbeiner said. “We tried to draw a line tonight that this would mark the new season that we’ve been practicing for the last two weeks.
“It’s very, very frustrating because every time we got a little lead ... we’d just pull a surprise on ourselves — a bad shot, a defensive non-stop when we had to have one.”
The most frustrating stat of the night for Finkbeiner was the fact his team got outrebounded 44-37. UCI also enjoyed a 19-9 edge in second-chance points.
“We’re just getting pounded on the boards and it’s been all season long,” Finkbeiner said. “We’re going to have to make some serious game plan personnel adjustments with rebounding because tonight, if we would have halfway rebounded it, it might have given us enough cushion to pull this thing out.”
Camille Buckley led the Anteaters with 16 points and 14 rebounds. Jennifer Tsurumoto chipped in 15 and Meggs added 12 to help UCI (3-7) snap a two-game losing streak.
Following Meggs’ final 3 of the night, the Aggies did get a shot off, but Christensen’s desperation heave from midcourt was off the mark.
“It’s really frustrating,” USU guard Jennifer Schlott said. “We had the game the whole time. We were up by nine and we just let it slip. It was the second-chance shots, we didn’t rebound, we didn’t show any heart.”
Schlott led all scorers in the game with a career best 26 points on 9 of 13 shooting from the field, including 4 of 6 from 3-point range. The junior also had five assists, five rebounds and two steals.
“I was looking to shoot, looking to score,” Schlott said. “My teammates put me in really good opportunities to do that.”
Christensen chipped in 20 points for the Aggies (2-8), who lost their fifth straight game and fell to 0-2 at home.
“We challenged our players after the game that it was probably a little bit of a will thing tonight,” Finkbeiner said. “They were a little more hungrier than we were and it was a one-point difference. The sad thing is that’s all you need to win a game is just one point.
“They hit that last 3 and you could almost figure that was going to happen with the way the last five minutes went. We just didn’t play with that wanting-to-win attitude as opposed to trying not to lose.”
Was Finkbeiner surprised the Anteaters went for the win, rather than the tie?
“We went to a trapping zone that last possession thinking that they were going to try to go to the hoop,” Finkbeiner said. “We were going to try to get into the passing lanes, so it probably caught us a little by surprise, too, that they pulled the trigger on the 3.
“It’s a coaching risk, a calculation on their part, and it paid off.”
After falling behind 66-57, UCI closed the game on a 14-4 run.
“We just didn’t rebound, they had so many second-chance points, we didn’t dive for loose balls, there wasn’t any heart,” Schlott said.
Five of the Anteaters’ first six field goals were 3-pointers as they built an 18-7 lead in the first half.
However, USU countered with a 20-7 run, capped by back-to-back 3-pointers from Makenlee Williams, to move in front 27-25 with 6:31 to go in the first half.
The Aggies led 41-36 at the break.