UCR women’s basketball started Big West play this week, facing Cal State Fullerton in their conference debut. In both games the Highlanders shot a higher field goal percentage than their opponents, but the huge amount of foul shots that Riverside surrendered in the second half of both games came back to haunt them.

January 9, 2014

Titans 82 — Highlanders 78

The Highlanders’ first game against Fullerton was extremely close, coming down to a four-point decision in the end (82-78). Late game heroics were almost the story, with late buckets by Brittany Crain and Simone DeCoud shortening the lead to three with only eight seconds left. However, Fullerton hit some clutch free throws to ensure their win.

Leading the Highlanders in scoring was Crain, who had 25 points to go with five rebounds and zero turnovers. She was followed by Annelise Ito, who racked up 22 points on an extremely efficient 75 percent shooting and perfect night at the free throw line. DeCoud provided a spark off of the bench with 17 points along with four assists, second only to Kiara Harewood’s six. These two also played well defensively, each tallying three steals and a block each.

Statistically, the Highlanders had this game well within their grasp, though it’s hard to win when the club allows the opposing team to take 19 free throws in the second half alone.

January 11, 2014

Anteaters 90 — Highlanders 78

The trend of good shooting continued at Irvine in the team’s second game this week. Riverside was behind a manageable seven points going into the half thanks to a 6-0 run catapulted by Brittany Crain. However, the game became a tug-of-war of runs between the two teams, the likes of which UCR never seemed to get the best of.

Crain and Ito once again were the one-two punch that led the way for the Highlanders. This time, Crain put together a double-double with 22 points and 11 rebounds, not to mention three steals and three assists. Ito scored 18 to go with her six assists and six rebounds. This game, Jamila Williams was hot off the bench, scoring 14 points on a very impressive 7-10 shooting performance, and came up just one rebound away from her own double-double.

The Irvine Anteaters were led by Jennifer Tsurumoto, who exploded for a career-high 31 points. She also grabbed five rebounds, handed out four assists and recorded four steals. Once again, Riverside had a higher field-goal percentage that its opponent, but giving up 19 free-throw attempts to any team in just one half is a tough obstacle to overcome.

With the two loses, the Highlanders fall to 4-11, and are riding a seven-game losing streak. If they are going to change their fortunes, they are going to need to prevent their opponents from scoring easy points at the free-throw line, which means an emphasis on cleaner and more consistent defensive play. Riverside hopes to break the skid this week, starting this Thursday at home versus UC Davis, and then at home again against Hawaii on Saturday.