IRVINE (CNS) - UC Irvine will seek its first berth in the NCAA women's basketball tournament since 1995 today when it faces top-seeded Hawaii in the final of the Big West Championship in Henderson, Nevada.
The Anteaters (21-10) lost both regular-season games against the top- seeded Rainbow Wahine (19-9), 77-73 in Irvine on Jan. 15 and 67-57 in Honolulu on Feb. 19.
UC Irvine advanced to the final for the second consecutive season with an 84-75 overtime victory over sixth-seeded UC Davis in a semifinal Friday, its season-high sixth consecutive victory. The Anteaters' 21st victory tied the school record set in the 1984-85 season.
Hawaii defeated UC Riverside, 69-55, in its semifinal Friday, extending its winning streak to seven games.
UC Irvine is led by guard Kayla Williams, a first-team All-Big West Conference selection in both seasons she has played for the Anteaters. In conference play, the 5-foot-9-inch alumnus of Bishop Montgomery High School in Torrance ranked among the top four in scoring, averaging 16.7 points per game, assists, averaging 4.3, steals, averaging 2.4, and 3-point baskets, averaging 2.3.
Rainbow Wahine graduate forward Amy Atwell was selected as the conference's player of the year. The 6-footer from Australia leads the conference in scoring with 17.6 points per game, is second in free throw percentage at 85.1% and 3-point baskets per game, 2.5, third in field goal percentage at 44.2%, and sixth in rebounding, averaging 6.8.
UC Irvine led the Big West with 14 conference victories but finished second in the regular-season standings behind Hawaii based on win percentage. The Anteaters were 14-4 in conference play with two games canceled because of coronavirus issues. The Rainbow Wahine were 13-3 with three games canceled because of coronavirus issues.
The losing team will get an automatic bid to the Postseason Women's National Invitation Tournament. The highest-finishing team in each of the 32 Division I conferences' regular-season standings that is not selected for the NCAA Tournament receives the WNIT automatic berth, regardless of overall or conference record.
The 5 p.m. game will be streamed on ESPN+.