Plenty of talent for the Big West of tomorrow, shining today
IRVINE, CA — The Big West Tournament got underway Tuesday night with two opening round matchups. The first between UC Irvine and UC Santa Barbara, and the second between Cal State Fullerton and Long Beach State.
In the first game, UC Irvine defeated UC Santa Barbara, 53-46. In the second matchup of the night, Long Beach State defeated Cal State Fullerton, 60-54. Here are a few takeaways from day one of the tournament.
Jordan Sanders is a rising star
The sophomore forward had a breakout season this year averaging 20.5 points per game on 47.2 percent shooting from the field. Last season she was the Big West Freshman of the Year.
In the Anteaters opening round win against UCSB, she led all scorers with 17 points. She also had 12 rebounds. She picked her spots all game long and hit a couple clutch free-throws to seal the win. She’s a versatile scorer who can attack her defender off the dribble as well as step back shoot from the perimeter.
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UC Santa Barbara has a bright future
The Gauchos were a young team this season, and it showed as they finished the regular season 8-21 and 5-11 in conference play. Despite falling in the first round of the Big West tournament, there was reason for optimism for UCSB looking to next season. The backcourt tandem of junior Coco Miller and sophomore Danae Miller both took home postseason honors. Coco was named to the Big West second team and Danae was an honorable mention.
The duo kept UCSB in the game in the second half with timely scores and playmaking when Irvine threatened to blow the game open. Danae is strong attacking the rim and putting pressure on the defense while Coco is constantly scanning the court looking to set teammates up for easy buckets.
Justina King is the point guard of the future for Long Beach
Recently named the Big West Freshman of the Year, Justina King played like a veteran in the 49ers opening round win over Fullerton. She may have finished with only two points, but she was brilliant running the point. She kept the ball moving and created many shot opportunities for her teammates.
She managed to break into the starting lineup as a freshman and averaged 9.6 points per game and 3.3 assists. She definitely looks like the 49ers floor general of the future and will certainly have an impact on how far Long Beach goes in the tournament.
Cal State Fullerton has a budding lead guard of their own
Sophomore Raina Perez was the most consistent player for the Titans in their first-round loss. She did her best to keep Fullerton in the game with drives to the rim, getting easy looks in the paint. She also ran the offense well, finishing with eight assists.
Perez made an immediate impact as a freshman at Northern Arizona two years ago. She sat out last season after transferring, and this season she’s picked up right where she left off. She was named an Honorable Mention for the all-conference team.
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