The 2015-16 season for the UC Riverside women’s basketball team has been one of both victory and strife. Although UCR has managed to accrue a 7-7 record with a solid 74 ppg average in the nonconference portion of the season, there is still much left to be desired out of the team. Their statistics seem to point toward breaking even in every category so far and this puts us right in the middle of the pack, but that’s the problem.
UCR currently stands fifth in the conference where Long Beach State is mercilessly leading the pack with an 11-3 record while the other three (Cal Poly, Hawaii, UC Davis) are neck and neck with a record of 7-6. Originally projected to finish second before conference play, UCR has fallen short of those expectations, but there is still room for improvement. However, UCR needs to rethink their strategy and up the ante for games to come if we want to secure a solid position in the standings and have a competitive chance of coming out on top in the Big West.
With their highest winning streak being a mere two games, it’s no wonder UCR sits in the middle of the pack. The Highlanders have done quite well against other teams around the same skill level, such as Fresno State and Loyola Marymount. However, when it comes time to play teams with stronger pedigree, teams like UCLA, Washington and Oregon, it turns into a game of “how long can we hold out.” Against Washington, UCR failed to put up much of a fight with a loss of 78-43 and the story continued with UCLA besting us at 70-56. This has made it very tough for UCR to improve upon their record and is also a contributing factor as to why they have fallen so low. Yet when considering their standing (one game behind the three-way tie at second place) and difficult schedule, UCR has done just as well, if not better, than those teams.
There’s a lot of hope for UCR despite this, because at this point in time, UCR is sitting in a perfect position. With interconference play set to begin, truly anything can happen; and looking at the games that have transpired, it’s a high probability of UCR being able to secure a number two spot in the season with the games to come. Yet, there was a similar thought after nonconference play last season and the team failed to meet those expectations.
The Highlanders have consistency, but not necessarily in a positive way. It’s been a game of back and forth for the women’s basketball team as each win is often followed by a loss and vice versa. In the coming weeks, the Highlanders are slated to face UC Irvine as well as UCSB. As the standings show, there’s a clear split in terms of pedigree and skill after UCR with the bottom four teams having a significantly lower winning percentage with UCI at .231 and UCSB right underneath at .214, which should provide UCR with some momentum to play off of as these should be easy wins starting off 2016 and hopefully carrying over into the rest of the season. What lies ahead for UCR is a fickle road, one that could make or break this season as well as the conference, and with the competition neck and neck, the stakes are high and the chances to come out on top are even higher.