March 1, 2014

Matadors 77 — Highlanders 75

The UCR women’s basketball team has definitely seen brighter days than these. With high expectations coming into the 2013-14 season, the Highlanders have disappointed in every regard. Whether it was starting off Big West play on a 10-game losing streak (the worst in the program’s 43 years of recorded history), winning back-to-back against UC Irvine and UC Santa Barbara — only to fall right back on their faces against Cal Poly and CSU Northridge, this team just can’t seem to catch a break.

Such was the case this Saturday, where — for the Highlanders — the raindrops fell just a little heavier and the bus ride home felt just a little longer, after they had the taste of victory looming on the tip of their tongues, ready to quench a fervid thirst for victory, only to fall short to the Big West-leading CSU Northridge Matadors 77-75.

The Highlanders had five players put up double-digit scoring numbers, with Brittany Crain pacing the bunch at 20 points. Matador Janae Sharp led all scorers with 24 points off 2-2 shooting and a perfect 10-10 from the free throw line.

The Matadors jumped out to a lead early in the first half that reached as high as 10 points at the 8:50 mark. However, the Highlanders were not ready to concede the game so early, gradually chipping away at the Northridge lead throughout the remainder of the period. With 1:41 remaining, a Brittany Crain three-pointer gave the Highlanders their first lead of the night 35-34. On the next possession, the Matadors answered back with a Camille Mahlknecht layup. The Highlanders were unable to score on their next possession, but capitalized on an ensuing Mahlknecht turnover with a buzzer-beating three-pointer by freshman phenom Simone DeCoud, retaking the lead at the half 38-36.

Coming out of the locker room, the Highlanders continued to build upon the momentum they had in their favor throughout the latter stages of the first half. A 6-0 run by the Highlanders increased their lead to 45-36 at the 17-minute mark, which grew to a commanding 56-42 lead by 14 minutes.

After building up their 14-point lead, things went downhill in the blink of an eye for the Highlanders. A 7-0 Matador run cut the Highlander lead to 49-56 at the 11:37 mark, followed by three three-pointers on three possessions by Northridge, slashing the Highlander lead to 65-60 with 7:11 to go.

The deluge continued, as an 8-0 run gave the Matadors the lead with 3:29 to go. The teams continued trading buckets for the remainder of the match, which ended with the Highlanders having a chance to win or tie the game with the last possession. With three seconds remaining, Brittany Crain pulled up for a three-pointer to win the game but fell short, allowing the Matadors to escape victorious.

Closing out games has been a recurring difficulty for the Highlanders this season, who more often than not, tend to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Nevertheless, it’s back to the drawing board for the women’s basketball team as they look to find a way to bring down the UC Davis Aggies on part two of their road trip this Thursday, March 6.