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Colleges: UCI, OCC atop standings

January 10, 2011|By Barry Faulkner, barry.faulkner@latimes.com

A pair of area women's basketball teams are in first place in their respective conferences, but perennial Golden State Athletic Conference title contender Vanguard is not one of them.

UC Irvine (11-4) is 3-0 in the Big West Conference, tied for first with Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, heading into two crucial home games against third-place UC Santa Barbara (8-7, 2-1 in conference) on Thursday and Cal Poly (7-7, 3-0) on Saturday.

The Anteaters, off to the program's best start since the 1984-85 team opened 13-3, are still battling to earn respect after struggling in Coach Molly Goodenbour's first two seasons at the helm. UCI was 9-21 last season and 7-23 two seasons ago. They were a combined 10-22 in conference those two seasons.

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UCI, led by junior forward Mikah Maly-Karros and senior point guard Jade Smith-Williams, who have captured the first two Big West Player of the Week accolades this season, could crack the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25 when the poll is released today. UCI was not in the top 25 released Jan. 4, though the 'Eaters were among those who received votes.

That Jan. 4 poll included UC Davis (12-4, 2-2) at No. 10.

UCI was also slighted on the Big West website Monday, when a release announcing Maly-Karros as Player of the Week included a picture of junior Kiara Belen misidentified as Maly-Karros.

Goodenbour said late in December that UC Riverside and UC Davis were clear favorites to win the conference crown this season. But UCI won at UC Riverside, 53-46, to open conference play Dec. 31.

UCI, which is 7-0 at home this season, has won five straight and 11 of its last 12.

Orange Coast College (15-5, 2-0 in the Orange Empire Conference) is tied atop the seven-team conference with Riverside (12-7, 2-0), though Fullerton (16-2, 1-0) and Cypress (12-5, 1-0) are also programs to reckon with.

OCC is ranked No 10 in the state and No. 6 in Southern California.

Fullerton, ranked No. 2 in the state, plays host to Coach Mike Thornton's Pirates on Jan. 21.

Cypress, ranked No. 14 in the state and No. 7 in SoCal, visits OCC on Jan. 19.

Riverside is not ranked.

Meanwhile, Vanguard (8-4, 4-2), ranked No. 12 in the NAIA poll released Monday and having won seven of the last eight GSAC titles, sits in a four-way tie for third in the ultra-competitive 11-school GSAC.

Coach Russ Davis' Lions let one get away Saturday night, falling in overtime to Cal Baptist, 84-76. Vanguard held a six-point lead with 33 seconds left in regulation.

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